This report has been created by Valerie Browning from AFAR Pastoralist Development Association (APDA)
APDA has now conducted a rapid assessment of damage inflicted on the local community, Afar Region Zone 4 as follows:
September 11th to 12th 2021 – 6 days post the departure of TPLF from Zone 4
Indeed this assessment was rapid conducted from Digdiga in Teeru to Gaali Koma and surrounds in Guulina to Yallo town to Kalwaan, Awra and on to Hidda in Awra and Alaale Subla in Uwwa.
The assessment is by no means conclusive or comprehensive since it did not take in areas of rural displacement where populations still are and was for the following purpose:
- To establish the immediate situation for displaced people returning
- To understand to what extent people in Zone 4 can receive the services of health, education, town water and resume marketing
- To define the immediate needs setting a priority that people can recover with dignity resuming the lifestyle they had.
APDA did meet up with delegates from Bureau of Health evaluating damage to health institutions as well as with those district heads who were back in their administration towns as well as with displaced people wanting to leave Digdiga and Gaali Koma, displaced people on the road returning as well as those already in their respective towns the APDA group visited.
A series of photos were taken to enhance this report. The report is deliberately for fellow LNGOs, INGOs, UN agencies and government bureaus and seeks to offer guidance as to how to view the emergency now that conflict has ceased – albeit transient as in fact there was an incursion into Afar Region from Tigray around 1 pm Sunday 13th that the Afar militia repelled incurring one death and 2 injured fighters.
APDA’s group included a person covering each of emergency health; emergency education; emergency water and livelihood as well as a photojournalist. All can be contacted for further discussion.
As or before TPLF left, they literally trashed the possibility of the Afar communities in Yallo, Guulina, Awra and Uwwa getting any form of service in the near future and also made sure their livelihoods were extremely damaged:
- WATER: The water reservoirs for Yallo town and Kalwaan are damaged by rocket – fire; the solar installation from Yallo was removed back to Tigray; the water generator was opened and stripped of parts. Again in Awra, the water generator is destroyed the community now paying 20 ETB to bring 25 liters of water from the river. Affected people are now collecting and drinking river water as the rainy season is actually ongoing –this seems adequate but not clean.
- FOOD: This is utterly a desperate need. In Yallo, every single possibility of food was raided and taken, even the town goats – not a goat remains. The greatest outcry is for food: in Yallo, sugar yesterday was 450 ETB/ kilogram and oil 1,250 ETB for 5 liters compared to 450 ETB for the same commodity on the main road. The now 240 people in Yallo town talked of how the TPLF tried to sell them teff (Ethiopian grain) for 4,000 ETB per 50 kilograms and that they, the TPLF were eating community goats.
Everywhere, Afar spoken of rural Afar with goats trying to assist those who were town merchants or the like by giving them small amounts of milk and, as they could, cooking bread for the displaced to survive in their place of displacement. Woman in Yallo town asked what she ate yesterday said she was very hungry so walked to the rural area and the Afar there gave her a piece of Afar bread and milk – she came back to the town feeling better. Then, wanting the 240 people (mostly merchants) who have come back to Yallo town to build back the town for them, Yallo rural people have contributed a series of 14 female camels to be slaughtered progressively so town people can eat.
- ONE GRINDING MILL: in the entire zone and including Sifra town, there is now only one working grinding mill. A local Afar started this diesel – powered machine on September 11th in Hidda, southern Awra. Immediately it is overwhelmed with the requests to grind grain – asking women sitting outside the mill what they were doing, they replied they were begging the mill and the owners of the grain to sell them just a metal cup of flour – the owners refused saying they too were desperately hungry.
- TOWN SHOPS AND RURAL LIVESTOCK: In Yallo, without exception, every shop was raided and in some cases, the shop shelves smashed. In Kalwaan, Awra and Alaale Subla, all food items were raided and around 75% to 90% of all shops were reduced to empty shells. Yesterday, the 6th day after this gigantic raid, shop owners were sitting on the street with a thermos of tea or coffee to sell – watered down to counteract the price hike + sachets of WFP – provided plumpy nut plus; cigarettes and a few other items, shop-owners desperate to eat for the day. Too TVs refrigerators, bedding and beds, furniture was carted off from all houses in Yallo and less in more distant towns from the Tigray border. Herders speak of TPLF slaughtering their goats in front of them as well as aimlessly shooting their camels dead. One woman walking back from searching food in Digdiga said they wedged between the 2 armies so we could not move. TPLF came into her mobile house taking every possible item and when they saw the traditional jewelry on her wrists, the wrenched that off too. She said the family is left without any property aside from the mobile house.
- HEALTH: Absolutely ALL health institutions were rendered unusable: Yallo health center, Kalwaan hospital; Awra health center; Alaale Subla health center and the health clinics in another 7 surrounding kebeles. Every clinic document/ patient records are thrown into absolute disarray on the floor amid broken glass and broken pieces of equipment and furniture. In most buildings windows are smashed and doors bent open. All pharmacies are totally trashed so that not a tablet remains in its box. Medications, laboratory equipment, ultrasounds and x-ray machine and a respirator from Kalwaan hospital were all uplifted to Tigray including refrigerators and computers. What they did not take, they damaged and left. All mattresses are either gone or damaged. TPLF were apparently performing surgery to injured combatants in Kalwaan Hospital and Hidda health center – bloodstains remain. Hidda health center was hit by a missile – probably fired from a drone as the damage is limited to one roof and verandah. Many oxygen cylinders remain. An ambulance the community in Yallo bought for maternal health was driven into Tigray, the broken ambulance left.
- SCHOOLS: in general, the schools and the school compounds were army camps and dormitories – rotting bread is there as well as the remaining rubbish from their presence. School desks are in disarray, windows broken and classrooms bare looking like a dirty cave. In Alaale Subla, a store of school textbooks is fully trashed. Latrines if they were not insanitary are now useless. In Uwwa district, schools in 7 kebeles are un-usable as they are and one in ‘Asskoma was bombarded from the air – district head report.
- RESIDENT HOUSE DAMAGE: aside from houses being looted, in Yallo town 3 civilian buildings were hit by rocket/ mortar fire leaving gaping holes in the walls and torn off roofs. Again, in Alaale Subla another 3 houses are highly damaged while the adjoining house has some damage.
- KFW – SUPPLIED ROOT PLOUGH driven away: KFW, Germany had supplied a couple of heavy machines to remove prosopis juliafora from districts like Yallo and Teeru where the shrub has totally taken over grazing lands – so the Yallo government and community report – this plough was brought to Yallo just prior to outbreak of conflict and was loaded onto a lobed and driven into Tigray – another new tractor stands ideal in the main street – the tractor apparently refused to start so the electric wires were cut and two tyres slit.
- DESTRUCTION IN MOSQUES: all religious books were burnt in a deliberate way to undermine the respectability of the Afar people.
This collective mindless destruction appears as a corporate punishment for the Afar people that they will not go forward and will not have any form of prosperity. There is no food and no medical care right now for almost 300,000 people of Zone 4 aside from the health center in Digdiga.
Trying to go home:
All over, people who have returned to the towns seemed to be in stunned shock to realize the current condition of their livelihood while others in displacement in the Teeru town of Digdiga and the settlement at Gaali Koma are clamoring for transport to go back to their respective rural/ town home areas. No transport is causing chaos as people are trying to take what they can of the non-food items they were distributed as well as any possible food they can. APDA saw several people also leaving on foot with camels – these people aside from one camel had no food – buckets, washing bowls, jerricans and tarpaulin. There are others who are camped in Digdiga and Gaali Koma in the HOPE they might get food distribution and go. FSA, Afar Region has just given 2,240 people 3,500 ETB – this may all be swallowed up in getting transport home
For the schools, clinics and hospitals, APDA team did not find any waiting/ practicing staff: one Afar nurse had returned the day before to Yallo health center finding there is no possible way of practicing since his facility is simply junked. Most of the employees are apparently non-Afar who fled in the conflict and there is doubt as to their return – made worst by the fact they may well have the news of the devastation so think it not worth coming back to. As was mentioned, Bureau of Health was making a parallel assessment of collateral damage.
The one great thing, environment rejuvenation:
Over to 7 weeks of conflict, the rainy season has produced probably the best array of plant and shrub growth in several years – as one drives through the adjoining districts, there are almost no grazing animals – there is an array of beautiful grasses now coming to seed as well as the weed grass pantium that actually turns the milk and meat of animals sour. Even the towns unpopulated for 7 weeks are overrun by foliage.
Other photos of each town and displaced area visited are being posted on the APDA website – www.apda-ethiopia.org