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Over 7,000 schools damaged in Tigray war: Ethiopia minister

Children displaced by fighting in northern Ethiopia play among sacks of clothes at the Addis Fana School, where they are temporarily sheltered, in the city of Dessie, Ethiopia, on August 23, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

Some 7,000 schools in Ethiopia’s war-torn Tigray region have been damaged in fighting in the East African country, and nearly 1.5 million students are unable to attend school, the Ethiopian government has said.

“As a result of #TPLF futile war in northern #Ethiopia in Tigray, Afar and Amhara regions, more than 7,000 schools have been fully (some partially) damaged,” Ethiopian Education Minister Getahun Mekuria said on his official Twitter account on Monday, referring to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front rebel group, which has been fighting the government.

“More than 1.42M students have been out of school already (in #Tigray) or will be out of school (in Afar, Amhara),” the minister said, describing the development as “very sad.”

The northern Ethiopian region has been wracked by violence since last November, when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed deployed troops into Tigray to topple the TPLF, the regional ruling party, in response to attacks on army camps.

Although Abiy promised a swift victory, the war has dragged on for months, sparking a humanitarian crisis in the region and leading to the capture of neighboring Afar and Amhara region by the rebels.

The US government aid agency USAID alleged on Tuesday that TPLF forces had “looted” its warehouses, describing the move as a “great concern for humanitarians.”

“We know for a fact… that the TPLF, every town they’ve gone into, they looted the warehouses, they’ve looted trucks, they’ve caused a great deal of destruction in all the villages they visited and it’s a great concern for humanitarians,” said Sean Jones, head of the USAID mission in Ethiopia, in an interview with Ethiopian state television EBC.

“What we do have proof of is that several of our warehouses have been looted and completely emptied in the areas, particularly Amhara, the TPLF soldiers have gone into,” he said.

According to Jones, his agency has provided food support to five million people in northern Ethiopia, “inside of Tigray but also now in Amhara and Afar.”

The TPLF accused the African Union on Sunday of bias in favor of the Ethiopian government after the bloc selected former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo as a mediator to end the months-long conflict, objecting that it would be “naive to expect this mission to work.”

As the conflict has deepened, the humanitarian toll has surged, and aid workers are struggling to reach cut-off populations and the 400,000 people facing famine-like conditions in Tigray, according to the United Nations (UN).

Last Thursday, the UN’s humanitarian agency, OCHA, said the flow of aid to Tigray had virtually stopped since August 20, with no trucks having been able to enter the region.

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