| 22 April 2024, Monday |

Ethiopian parents appeal for help to evacuate students stranded by Tigray War

On Friday, the parents of thousands of Ethiopian students stranded in the war-torn northern province of Tigray begged for assistance in evacuating their children after the main institution warned that it would be unable to feed them for much longer due to food and financial shortages.

Mekelle University, which receives funding from the federal government, announced on its Facebook page on Thursday that its bank accounts had been frozen and that the federal government had failed to send cash for the current fiscal year.

It stated that it was running out of funds to feed kids and that it would no longer be responsible for them as of July 27.

The Ministry of higher education did not respond to Reuters requests for comment on the situation at the university.

“We are asking the U.N. to bring our children from Tigray,” Berhanu Tegeneh, a representative of a parents’ committee, told Reuters as hundreds of parents flocked to the U.N. office in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa to deliver their request.

Berhanu, from Addis Ababa, said he has been unable to speak to his daughter, a fourth-year student at Mekelle University, since phone lines went down on June 29, the day after Tigrayan forces retook the regional capital Mekelle.

A spokesperson for the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the parents’ demands.

The parents’ committee said students were stranded at four universities in Tigray, including Mekelle, after the conflict severed communications and transport links. Banks are no longer functioning and more than 90 percent of Tigrayans need food aid, according to OCHA. Food convoys have been suspended since Sunday, when trucks came under gunfire.

War erupted in Tigray in November between the Ethiopian military and the region’s ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). Three weeks later, the government declared victory when it captured Mekelle, but the TPLF kept fighting.

At the end of June, the TPLF seized back control of Mekelle and most of Tigray after government soldiers withdrew.

In its notice, Mekelle University said it had bussed about 5,000 students to the neighbouring state of Afar on July 18, but that education officials expected to receive them never showed up. The buses returned to Mekelle, according to the university.

Reuters could not independently verify that account. Officials from Afar did not respond to requests for comment.

The conflict spilled out of Tigray into Afar this week, threatening a key road linking the Ethiopian capital to the port of Djibouti.

  • Reuters