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News: Severe humanitarian crisis plagues Tigray region, with women bearing the brunt of violence and lack of support

A new report by Refugees International found that an estimated 40–50% of Tigray’s women experienced gender-based violence during the fighting between regional forces and the federal government (Photo: Getty Images)

Addis Abeba – More than a year after the end of conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, a severe humanitarian crisis continues to impact the area, with women being particularly affected, according to a new report by the nonprofit group Refugees International.

Senior fellow Sarah Miller, who conducted extensive research by interviewing civilians and health workers in the Tigray region, found that an estimated 40–50% of Tigray’s women experienced gender-based violence during the fighting between regional forces and the federal government. Of these victims, over 80% reported being raped, with nearly 70% reporting brutal gang rape by armed militia groups.

The report also highlighted the lack of available support for the population of over seven million in Tigray, with only three clinical psychologists covering the entire area. This has led to many abused women facing untreated trauma, according to the report.

Additionally, the report revealed that hundreds of thousands of people remain internally displaced, unable to return home due to destruction, instability, and ongoing clashes. These displaced individuals lack basic necessities such as food, water, shelter, and medical access, leading to disease, malnutrition, and the difficult choice of trading sex for survival.

During a pause in humanitarian food assistance by the World Food Program (WFP) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the majority of displaced households headed by women had to make difficult decisions about which children would eat. While humanitarian agencies like USAID have pledged to resume deliveries, Miller argues that the response falls short of the urgent, wide-ranging support needed by women in Tigray.

Recently, the Ethiopia Human Rights Commission also shared findings showing that services related to sexual and gender-based violence in the region are disproportionate to the levels of such violence during the conflict. While efforts have been made to facilitate coordination between relevant health actors, the commission stated that support currently lacks coherence and falls short of meeting survivors’ needs.

Miller emphasized the central role of women in the recovery process and urged donors to increase funding for gender-based violence programs aligned with initiatives like USAID’s Safe from the Start ReVisioned, an initiative that focuses on improving and expanding protection services for women. According to Miller, empowering women is crucial for healing from the crisis conditions that have been left unchecked for too long. AS

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