proxy war

Ethiopia: Afar region the new front in the civil war as Tigray violence subsides

By Fred Harter

Premium badge Reserved for subscribers

Posted on February 25, 2022 18:25

An Afar militiaman in Chifra
An Afar militiaman in Chifra in January 2022 (photo: Fred Harter)

Fatuma Taha was at home with her four children when the artillery shell crashed through the roof of her home in Berhale, a town near the border that separates Ethiopia’s Afar and Tigray regions. As she fled, she passed the bodies of several people killed by the barrage lying in the road.

Her family are among the 300,000 people who have been displaced by an offensive launched in late December by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) into Afar, an arid region of stony deserts and saline lakes in Ethiopia’s northeast. Heavily pregnant, Fatuma walked for five days to safety, as did most of her neighbours.

She is now staying in Afdera, a ramshackle shantytown of tin shacks that sits within the Danakil Depression, a low-lying expanse of land that ranks as the hottest place on earth. It is a punishing place. In the summer, temperatures can soar past 50 degrees Celsius, and hot winds whip up swirling dust devils. The British explorer Wilfred Thesiger, who visited in the 1930’s, described it as a “veritable land of death.”

“We have nothing to eat and nothing to drink,” says Fatuma, 20, whose family is living on a thin tarpaulin sheet outside her relative’s home, with no cover from the sun. “I’m worried about my baby – we need help.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA © Fatuma and her four children were displaced after a shell struck their home in Berhale, a town in Ethiopia’s Afar region. January 2022 (photo: Fred Harter)

There's more to this story

Get unlimited access to our exclusive journalism and features today. Our award-winning team of correspondents and editors report from over 54 African countries, from Cape Town to Cairo, from Abidjan to Abuja to Addis Ababa. Africa. Unlocked.

Subscribe Now

cancel anytime