As international organizations prepare to distribute aid to war-weary civilians in Ethiopia’s Tigray state as soon as possible, tiger refugees who have fled to neighboring Sudan wonder if they will ever see each other again. their homeland.
A deal reached between the United Nations and the Ethiopian government last week allowed aid workers to enter the besieged region, but it remains too volatile for aid to reach.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed declared victory over the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) after federal troops captured the regional capital Mekelle just over a week ago, claiming no civilian had been killed in the offensive.
Tens of thousands of displaced Ethiopian refugees are strapped for food and water due to the month-long conflict that has forced nearly 50,000 to flee.
Those who have fled the violence think they are the luckiest.
The vast majority of refugees living in Sudan’s Um Rakuba camp, which means “mother of all shelters”, are men. They say they saw other men being killed and fled for their lives.
Despite the rudimentary conditions of the camp, with families sleeping in the open air, Tigrayans say they feel safe there.
Cash and other assistance are available to all refugees and rudimentary educational facilities have been set up.
Refugee teachers start classes with songs under wooden shelters – children’s songs are a welcome distraction for missing family members at home.
If there is one consensus among the refugees, it is this: They will not return home until they are safe.
“I can’t go back to Tigray. It’s too dangerous for me, ”said Younas, a student.
He wants to know if his sister and mother are safe, but due to the deliberate communication failure, he cannot reach them. “I’m just going to have to wait,” he said.
Waiting has become a forced pastime for many Tigrayans living in Um Rakuba as the conflict, which could potentially uproot them forever, continues.