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Tigray crisis: finding hope in the darkest places

Warning: some readers may find this story upsetting.

By Agnes McGrane | 25 Jun 2021

Credit: Chris Hoskins/Tearfund

Credit: Chris Hoskins/Tearfund

The crisis in Ethiopia is escalating. Conflict between armed groups in the Tigray region has been relentless for over seven months, and people are now being pushed to the brink of starvation. Afia* is one of the millions of people who have been caught up in the violence. This is her story.

Afia was seven months pregnant when she had to leave everything she knew behind. After months of violence in her hometown, life had become a daily battle for survival, and she lived in constant fear of attack. The family’s electricity had been cut off and it was getting increasingly difficult to access food and water. Afia’s husband urged her to take their six children and seek refuge with family members outside of Tigray.

Afia walked for miles with her children, terrified of what they might encounter along the way. They managed to pass by armed groups unharmed and finally arrived at their destination, exhausted and traumatised by the journey.

Tragic loss

Afia’s husband called her to let her know that he was on the way to meet them. But after this call, Afia was unable to contact him.

After weeks of worry, Afia received devastating news – her husband had been killed when he was on his way to join the family.

As well as facing overwhelming grief, Afia had no idea how she could now provide for her family. They had been dependent on her husband’s income, which had been stretched during the past year due to the coronavirus pandemic, and she had no savings to fall back on.

New life, new hope

In the midst of all this distress, Afia gave birth to a baby girl. This marked a turning point.

‘The coming of the baby girl brought hope to the hopeless situation,’ says Afia. ‘I struggled hard to survive starvation and lead a family with many limitations and unfulfilled needs.’

It was around this time that Afia learned that there may be support available for her. Our local partner launched an emergency response when the crisis began, delivering food and other essential items. They also provided families with cash grants so that they could buy what they needed.

They visited Afia and provided her with a grant so that she could support herself and her family for the next few months.

‘It was the first time for me to have access to withdraw cash from a bank after the death of my beloved husband,’ says Afia.

Now, Afia is able to buy food and essential items for herself and her children. And crucially, she has renewed hope for the future despite the loss and trauma she has experienced. She has strength to face tomorrow.

‘Hope for living’

Our local partner is committed to supporting people affected by the conflict for the long term, so she knows that she doesn’t have to face the challenges of the future alone.

‘I thank the project team and the donors for their life-saving efforts,’ says Afia. ‘You not only brought us support, but also hope for living!’

We thank God that our local partners have been able to reach people like Afia. However, millions remain at risk. According to the UN, Tigray is now suffering from famine conditions, with almost over 80 per cent of the population in need of food aid.

It has been difficult for our partners, and other humanitarian organisations, to access rural parts of the region due to ongoing violence and road blocks, and there are many challenges in getting support to those who need it most. Please pray with us for an end to this desperate situation.

Pray with us

Lord, We cry out to you for an end to violence in the Tigray region. We lift up Afia, and all the people who have been affected by this ongoing conflict, and pray that you will comfort them and help them to get the support that they desperately need. Thank you for your promise that you are close to the broken-hearted and those crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18). We ask for your peace to reign and for an end to this conflict. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

*Name changed to protect identity.

Written by

Written by Agnes McGrane

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