Ethiopia: Back to Tigray 

19 Dec 2022

LWF Ethiopia staff were on the first humanitarian flight to Mekelle after the cessation of hostilities. They visited communities LWF serves and joined the local member church in a Thanksgiving service to celebrate the fragile peace in Tigray.

Ethiopia Tigray team

From left to right: Abraham Haftu Girmay, Livelihoods coordinator, Mekelle, Sophie Gebreyes and Tsehai Hailu, Tuhul tabia, Enderta. Photo: LWF/ C. Masanga

LWF resumes aid work after the region is opened again 

(LWI) - Tigray is accessible again, but people still need help. This is the message Sophie Gebreyes, the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Country Representative in Ethiopia, shares after she visited the formerly closed-off Tigray region in late November. Weeks after the conflict parties agreed on a ceasefire on 2 November 2022, Ethiopia's Tigray region was opened again for humanitarian aid.  

Gebreyes and Charles Masanga, LWF Senior Humanitarian Coordinator in Ethiopia, were onboard the first humanitarian flight to Mekelle on 25 November. "As you can imagine, it was an emotional time to be reunited with our team and the people we serve in the places we visited during our stay," Gebreyes says.

Ethiopia Tigray beneficiary woman

Tsehai Hailu. Photo: LWF/ S. Gebreyes

Faces of hope 

Gebreyes describes the situation as calm and relatively safe. As opposed to before, people were on the streets even after nightfall. "People's faces brimmed with hope and were visibly happy about the changing circumstances. These are the people who suffered and continue to suffer the most by the active conflict and de facto blockade – still in place –since over a year," Gebreyes continues. "We went to Enderta to monitor a cash distribution, the first in months, and it was uplifting to see women on the highway walking to the Saturday market without any fear of being attacked by armed forces. " 

The possibility for humanitarian workers to revisit the region is a start, but help is still very much needed the Country Representative stresses. "We had a few power cuts when we were there, and there was no telecommunication, no phone, no internet, no banking, no fuel," she says. "Now, people in Tigray need immediate humanitarian aid and early recovery and development assistance as we transition to consolidated peace."

Ethiopia Tigray beneficiary mother and child

Ti'emti and her daughter, Zinab. Tuhul, Enderta. The single mother received cash assistance from LWF. Photo: LWF/ S. Gebreyes 

In Tigray, LWF is collaborating with the the Development and Social Services Commission (DASSC) of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY) to provide humanitarian aid and livelihood support to people affected by the conflict there. The LWF team met people who had received seeds from LWF in July and to hear first-hand about the project's success.  

Tsehai Hailu, a widow and the breadwinner for six small grandchildren from Tuhul, Enderta, was able to harvest wheat in early November and just had her crops threshed  when the LWF team came by. "The distribution of seeds was so timely as it was the beginning of the planting season, and we received them just before the region was closed off," referring to the reescalation of the conflict in August 2022. "We only feared that the forces might destroy our growing crops. My grandchildren and I would have starved to death if not for this timely support."

Ethiopia Tigray oxen

Oxen threshing a harvest of wheat, from an LWF seeds distribution in the summer. Photo: LWF/ S. Gebreyes

"Being together, praising God and marking this important milestone was very good for all of us."

– Sophie GEBREYES, LWF Country Representative in Ethiopia

Thanksgiving service  

On the following Sunday, LWF, EECMY/DASSC, and the Mekane Yesus Mekelle Congregation came together in a Thanksgiving prayer service for the new hope of peace. "Being together, praising God, and marking this important milestone was very good for all of us," Gebreyes concludes.  

LWF/C. Kästner-Meyer, S. Gebreyes