UN raises alarm over Ethiopian school and health clinic massacres

More than 200 people were reportedly killed in refugee shelters in war-ravaged Afar region

The UN agency for children on Monday said it was “extremely alarmed” by reports of attacks on a school and a health clinic in northern Ethiopia that left 200 people dead, including more than 100 children.

Unicef director Henrietta Fore said the attacks took place on Thursday in Afar province, where rebel forces from neighbouring Tigray are on the offensive in what many fear is snowballing into a full-blown civil war.

“Unicef is extremely alarmed by the reported killing of over 200 people, including more than 100 children, in attacks on displaced families sheltering at a health facility and a school in Afar region,” said Ms Fore.

“Crucial food supplies were also reportedly destroyed in an area that is already seeing emergency levels of malnutrition and food insecurity.”

The UN agency did not say exactly where the attacks occurred or who was responsible, but various forces have been accused of human rights abuses since fighting erupted in the Horn of Africa country late last year.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in November sent troops to topple the ruling Tigray People’s Liberation Forces (TPLF), the then-ruling party of Tigray which dominated national politics for nearly three decades until 2018.

Mr Abiy, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, accused the TPLF of staging attacks on army camps. He declared victory within weeks after government forces took the Tigray capital Mekelle, but TPLF leaders remained on the run and fighting continued.

In a game-changing reversal of the conflict in late June, pro-TPLF forces re-entered Mekelle and Mr Abiy declared a unilateral ceasefire, with the army mostly pulling out of Tigray.

The rebels then pushed on into the Amhara and Afar regions, displacing tens of thousands of people.

“The intensification of fighting in Afar and other areas neighbouring Tigray is disastrous for children,” said Ms Fore.

“It follows months of armed conflict across Tigray that have placed some 400,000 people, including at least 160,000 children, in famine-like conditions.”

Updated: August 9th 2021, 3:48 PM
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