VRT NWS first in north of Tigray in Ethiopia: “This is a developing humanitarian disaster”
VRT NWS 20 December 2020
[Note: This reports contains several video clips in Amharic and Tigrinya. They have been translated into English
Almaz says her brother borrowed a phone from a friend and called to say her children and mother were ok. It is too painful to stay here in Addis Ababa she says.
I am staying in the hotel and my bank account is frozen. I do not even have the money to buy food for myself. My plan was to stay a week in AA and did not leave enough money for my mother. I am praying to God for help because no one else can. Because I am Tigrayan , I am discriminated. I have never had this level of discrimination before. My younger sister is working as a civilian in a military office but because she speaks Tigrinya she has been suspended from work.
Two Amhara boys say the land is ours and we want to work. But the Tigrayans do not allow us to work so now we have the opportunity to do so.
An Amhara soldier says, we are grateful to have our land back. The Tigrayans took it by force and we have taken it back by force.
Journalist asks, should you not take it by law? We now have our land and what happens next is for the government to decide.
Journalist says civilians died. Soldier replies up to now and going to the Tekezie River, there has not been any damage.
In the Tigrayan part, the interviewee says people do not feel safe here and are moving to other places, including Sudan. There are many thieves. After the war, they came at night and burnt Tigrayan house.
A lot of the people, including children are hiding in the woods.There is a lot of abuse.They do not have enough water to drink. The soldiers from Eritrea do the looting and take the money from the people. They abuse the Tigrayan youth.
Eritrean and Ethiopian soldiers shoot at our houses whilst we sleep – this was in Shire. Eritrean soldiers looted the medicine from shops. A woman in the hospital with wounds could not be treated because of lack of medicine medical stuff.
In recent weeks, Ethiopia’s army has waged a bloody offensive against local forces in Tigray province. There was no internet and no one was allowed to enter the area. Now in some areas controlled by the government army aid workers and journalists are admitted. Our VRT NWS team was the first to go to the area where no one had come before. She spoke to refugees and identified an acute shortage of humanitarian aid.
Tigray had been completely shut down in recent weeks. It was impossible for outsiders to visualize what was really going on at the front. Aid workers were also not allowed in, despite the fact that in Tigray there were also hundreds of thousands of Eritrean refugees in relief camps. 1 million Tigreans would have fled their home. Now that the army has occupied large parts of the area, the government is slowly allowing foreigners in. Our colleague Stijn Vercruysse and his team first went to the southwest of Tigray, in the area of Gondar. “In the meantime help has been allowed there and the army is present.”
View here the report from “Het Journaal” by our reporter Stijn Vercruysse from Gondar, on the border with Tigray.
Very little in Amharic but they seem to speak to Eritrean Refugees. The refugees say they left the camp for Shire because they had no water or food. And they were in the middle of the conflict and a number of the refugees were hurt.
“Further on, we passed ghost villages,”says journalist Stijn Vercruysse in” The morning “on Radio 1.” That is what we feared. There were corpses on the road and we saw burnt-out tanks, as well as buses with bullet holes in them. The people who stayed behind say they have no food, no water, and no medicine.
Watch a report from “Het Journaal” in which Stijn Vercruysse speaks with refugees (read more below the video):
Fuel is very expensive. There is no power, water and little food.
A woman says she does not know where her father and uncle are. She does not know if they are still alive or dead, and she does not know if her father and uncle know where they are too.
A young mother crying says she came from Humera. The children are hurt – pointing at them one by one.
Another mother with a daughter says some have died and some seriously wounded. She shows her injured breast whilst she breast fed a baby.
In the hospital there were only a few beds and nobody to treat the patients.
Some of the medical staff are too afraid to come and provide service. There is no food nor medication for the patients.
The team also encountered Eritrean refugees on the way, who were staying in camps in Tigray. They say they have been chased away. Now that aid organizations cannot reach those camps, there would also be a serious shortage of food and medicine. In the meantime, fighting continues in various places. But even in places where the fighting seems to be over, people do not dare to return to their homes because they are afraid of Eritrean soldiers who loot houses and harass people. “We have been able to establish that everything indicates that Eritrean soldiers have crossed the border wearing Ethiopian uniforms”, says Stijn Vercruysse. “It appears that they participated in the fighting and that they are at least helping to secure the region. But instead of securing, they would loot the Tigre’s homes.”
Watch the conversation with Stijn Vercruysse from Addis Abeba in “Het Journaal” about the Eritrean soldiers in Tigray below.
This clip is entirely in Dutch.
During the last week, the European Union postponed financial aid to Ethiopia because of the war in Tigray. It concerns 88.5 million euros. One of the conditions for paying the amount is the restoration of the communication lines in the Tigray region. At the moment, communication with people in the region is still very difficult. Stijn Vercruysse spoke to Tigreans in the Ethiopian capital Addis Abeba, who had no contact with their relatives in the region for weeks. Watch the report from “Het Journaal” here.
A woman tries to call family members. She tries to call her father, mather and siblings but couldn’t get through to them. I am here in AA and do not know what is happening to my family in Tigray.
Another women connects with her family and they say it is hard here. Banks are still closed. There is not enough water and food. My mum and sister are on medication, I do not know what will happen when that is finished.
Now that Stijn Vercruysse was one of the first journalists to enter the region for VRT NWS, it appears that the situation in Tigray is, as feared, very precarious: “Now, above all, more access is needed for humanitarian organizations, because we have seen that a humanitarian disaster is developing. ” View an extensive report from “Terzake” (21/12/2020) by our reporter on site, Stijn Vercruysse:
This is the same as the first.