Humanitarian Crisis in Ethiopia – Interviews with Tigray refugees in Eastern Sudan

Ethiopia Sudan Tigray

(Source:, 16 December 2020) – 


The Tigray region is a province in northern Ethiopia, historically populated primarily by Tigrinya-speakers but including a few ethnic minorities from other states including Amhara and Oromo. Most inhabitants are Orthodox Christians, though religious minorities include a Muslim sub-group (Jeberti) and a small Catholic population.

Ethiopia experienced a dramatic shift in its power structure in 2018 when Abiy Ahmed became Prime Minister, marking an end to almost 30 years of political rule dominated by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.  Abiy’s leadership led to rapid changes to Ethiopia’s political economy, and fractures in Ethiopia’s delicately balanced system of ethnic federalism became increasingly pronounced. Violence and ethnic conflict began sparking around the country. In Tigray, many of Abiy’s reforms were perceived as punitive – in particular, the peace accord with Eritrea. A dispute over postponement of planned elections in August 2020, and Tigray’s insistence on holding elections despite federal COVID prohibitions, led to rapidly escalating tensions and mutual accusations of illegitimacy.

On November 4, 2020, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered a military offensive against regional forces in Tigray in response to an attack by Tigray on a military base housing federal government troops, leading to widespread fighting across the region and an exodus of refugees. Click the link below to see the full report.

As a result of the ongoing conflict between Ethiopian federal forces and the Tigray state forces, an average of 1,500 refugees from Ethiopia are crossing into Eastern Sudan every day – 45% of them are children.1 Between November 7 and December 11, 2020, more than 49,878 Ethiopian refugees have crossed into Sudan through points in Kassala and Gedaref states, as well as a new location further south at Aderafi, according to UNHCR. It is estimated that violence in northern Ethiopia could displace more than 200,000 people into neighboring Sudan over the coming months, generating a rapidly escalating humanitarian crisis.


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