The crisis in Ethiopia's Tigray region enters its sixth month with no clear end in sight amid severe and ongoing child rights violations, the UN Children’s Fund has said.
"The crisis in Tigray has entered its sixth month with no clear end in sight," UNICEF spokesperson James Elder said on Tuesday.
Elder said more than 1 million people have been displaced, and fighting continues in the Tigray region, while "access and security remain serious issues."
The Tigray region has come under the international spotlight after Nov. 4 last year when the Horn of African country launched a massive law enforcement operation against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
On Nov. 3, 2020, the TPLF forces attacked the Northern Command of the Ethiopian defense forces stationed in the Tigray regional state, including in the capital Mekele, killing soldiers and looting sizable military hardware.
On Nov. 28, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ended the military operation, but sporadic fighting continued in the state. Hundreds of thousands of people got displaced while more than 60,000 fled the fighting to neighboring Sudan.
"Children in Tigray have been hit by COVID-19, then conflict. That means 1.4 million children have been out of school for more than a full year [since March 2020]. Yes, not a day of school in 13 months," according to Elder.
He said he met a 16-year-old girl who fled fighting in the western part of Tigray, and walked – with her baby brother on her back – for 300 kilometers (186 miles).
"This is also an education and nutrition emergency," Elder said, adding that he saw extensive destruction to the systems and essential services on which children rely.
A decision to reopen schools, however, is contingent on security and rehabilitation works – the Education Ministry estimates that up to 25% of schools have been damaged, and reopening schools requires relocation of the hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons who are currently sheltering in school premises – according to Elder.