Tigray: Women and girls bear significant costs of Ethiopian conflict 

Since conflict between federal and regional forces erupted in Tigray in north Ethiopia last November, some 2 million Tigrayans have been displaced with thousands fleeing to surrounding countries like Sudan. Not only has fighting not been contained, it has spread to neighbouring regions like Amhara and Afar. 

The spiralling crisis has wreaked untold havoc. Rampant sexual violence is going unreported. Many pregnant women – malnourished or starving – have to deliver on the move, putting her life and that of her child at risk. Only a fraction of health facilities are functional, and even fewer can provide post-rape treatment and comprehensive emergency obstetric care. 

Working with local, particularly women-led organizations, UNFPA is helping build capacity to respond to the needs of women and girls, from delivering emergency reproductive health kits to address issues including safe birth and treatment of sexually transmitted infections to training hundreds of health professionals in the clinical management of rape and sexual exploitation. 

The agency has delivered more than 33,000 metric tons of supplies in response to emergency sexual and reproductive health and gender-based violence needs, as well as personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline health-care workers during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. A team of 89 UNFPA-supported midwives has provided critical services to more than 24,000 women in the most underserved areas. 

The particular needs of already vulnerable women and girls – including those who are pregnant – must not be overlooked. UNFPA prioritizes their sexual and reproductive health, the prevention and response to gender-based violence, their protection from sexual abuse and exploitation and mental health and psychosocial support. They should be the priorities of anyone responding to humanitarian needs.