Explained: The crisis in Tigray Ethiopia

Read about the escalating crisis in northern Ethiopia and how we’re helping.


On 4 November 2020, escalating tension between Ethiopia’s federal government and the regional leadership in Tigray erupted into armed conflict.

Formal military operations ceased when the Tigrayan capital of Mekelle was captured by government forces at the end of November.

But millions of people remain at risk from inadequate shelter and continued insecurity.

The UN has declared a state of famine in Ethiopia. As people have been displaced by the brutal conflict in Tigray, farms have been left empty, crops unplanted. On top of this, families are also facing the constant threat of coronavirus.

We only expect the demand for emergency shelter to increase.

Families who have already been displaced by conflict may be forced to move again, in order to survive.

We have an ongoing response in Ethiopia, delivering emergency shelter and other essentials in partnership with IOM.

In the coming months, we will do everything we can to get our aid to the people who need it most.


Tigray is the northernmost region of Ethiopia.

It is the homeland of the Tigrayan, Irob and Kunama peoples.

Before this latest conflict, Tigray was already home to 100,000 internally displaced people and 96,000 refugees from neighbouring Eritrea.

The region has also suffered high levels of food insecurity.

It’s estimated that around 1.2 million people have been displaced as a result of this conflict.


More than 55,000 people have fled over the border into neighbouring Sudan. Many more are displaced within the region.

It’s difficult to know exactly how many people have fled their homes within Tigray, as communications from the region have been very limited for some time.

Tigray was also badly hit by a recent infestation of locusts which devastated crops and pasture, destroying livelihoods and leaving people with little food.

It’s estimated that 4.5 million people need urgent assistance there.

Most displaced people are living in schools or staying in host communities.

Living conditions are crowded, often in unfinished buildings without doors and windows.

People are sleeping on dusty floors, vulnerable to diseases such as coronavirus.

Or they’re sleeping outside, sheltering under trees and at risk of pneumonia and malaria as the rainy season approaches.


We have supported over 51,000 people affected by conflict in Ethiopia since 2018.

Now Tigray – a region that was already in desperate need of support – is facing a humanitarian catastrophe.

Working with our partner IOM, we’re supporting people who’ve fled their homes within Tigray with emergency shelter, household essentials and hygiene items.

We’re providing tarpaulins, rope, blankets, sleeping mats, mosquito nets, water carriers, carry sacks and kitchen sets.

We’re also providing washbasins, soap, and water jugs, to help prevent a devastating outbreak of coronavirus.


Our work won’t stop until we see a world where no family is left without shelter in the face of a devastating disaster or conflict.

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