Melissa Harris-Perry: Hi, everyone. I'm Melissa Harris-Perry and you're with us on The Takeaway. Ethiopia is nearly a year into a conflict in its northern Tigray region between the Ethiopian government's military forces from neighboring Eritrea and opposing forces from the Tigray People's Liberation Front. There are reports of human rights abuses and sexual violence against civilians and refugees perpetrated by all parties involved in the conflict. Thousands have been killed and more than 2 million displaced. Since June, Ethiopia's government has imposed a blockade on aid to the Tigray region. In August, the Secretary-General of the United Nations issued a warning.
António Guterres: The human price of this war is mounting by the day. A humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding before our eyes. More than 2 million people have been displaced from their homes and millions more are in immediate need of life-saving humanitarian assistance, including food, water, shelter, and health care.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Last week, President Biden threatened sanctions against anyone perpetrating violence or obstructing humanitarian assistance. Samuel Getachew is a freelance reporter based in Ethiopia. Samuel, thank you for coming back to The Takeaway.
Samuel Getachew: Thank you.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Can you give us a sense of this mounting humanitarian crisis in the region? What do we need to know?
Samuel Getachew: To begin with, there has been all kinds of accusations we're hearing from a distance, some are saying it's an Ethiopian side, some are saying it's the TPLF that's preventing needed resources to reach the people that need it the most. It's an open debate. We're watching it from a distance, not only because we're not able to travel to those parts of Ethiopia, which really needs the voice and the voices of us, the media, but also humanitarian workers that really need to go and save lives.
I'm sure to your listeners, and to those that have been watching Ethiopia from a distance for a while, this is a Catch-22 going back to the era of 1984 where millions of Ethiopians went through the same kind of famine. It's really a sad moment. It's not just me that's expressing the sadness. I think we're all sad watching the images that are coming from a distance.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Why is the government preventing both humanitarian aid and the presence of journalists?
Samuel Getachew: Again, in terms of humanitarian workers and humanitarian aid, it's an open debate. There are two sides there and they're so passionate presenting their side. The government is saying it's the TPLF that's preventing trucks heading to the Tigray region and the other side is saying it's the other side. It's really hard to verify the information. What we know for certain is the fact that millions of people are being affected by this, not just the famine, but the conflicts that's widespread, not just within the region of Tigray but in Amhara and in the Afar region. This is becoming bigger than expected.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Are internally displaced persons able to move out of the region? Have folks at all been making it out to seek refuge in other parts of the country or in neighboring nations?
Samuel Getachew: There are thousands of Ethiopians that have been heading to the Sudan, for instance. There are also those that have been displaced within Ethiopia, millions of them. Even for anyone who is willing to help, it's becoming so huge. I don't know what kind of amount of support is needed to help these many people, because the number just keeps going up. We started from hundreds.
Now, we're in the thousands that are heading to the Sudan. The Sudanese government has been saying they need resources to feed them. There are many people that are still trying to go to the Sudan, for instance, but there are also those that have been coming to other sides of Ethiopia. It's an overwhelming sadness and an overwhelming need, that the world is perhaps willing to help but isn't. That's the sadness of what's happening at the moment.
Melissa Harris-Perry: From the first time that we spoke, the two of us, at least back in June, about the ceasefire, there was, at that time as well, Samuel, this lack of clarity about precisely what the various interests of the players and parties in the situation were. What happened to that ceasefire and is this crisis actually also part of an actual exchange of hostilities at the moment?
Samuel Getachew: The government has said they have wanted some ceasefire, under pressure they said from the US government, from Washington, DC, and from other development partners that have been calling for a ceasefire. From the perspective of the TPLF, they've been saying this is uncalled for, and they weren't consulted. They did not negotiate a ceasefire that's perhaps in their favor. The government has insisted from weeks ago when they called a ceasefire, saying that they're doing it for humanitarian purposes to allow farmers to farm.
Because, again, the Tigray region, even at its best days, it's a region that's in need of humanitarian support. Much of the population has been supported from other regions transporting food and all kinds of stuff. Also, the role of NGOs, including the UN agencies, is so huge even before this conflict began. It has gotten worse. People are really dependent on aid, which is no longer available to them. That's why we're beginning to see the faces of the young victims we've been watching from a distance again.
Melissa Harris-Perry: In the interdependent fabric of humanity, these kinds of crises cannot remain simply isolated to one region in a nation. Have you seen effects in broader Ethiopia or again, clearly, the refugee crisis in Sudan, but are there ways that folks living in other parts of Ethiopia are beginning to experience the results, the impact of this crisis?
Samuel Getachew: You just have to look at what's happening in Afar and in Amhara region which we've seen many people, we've even seen dead faces and people that have been killed and displaced, and so on. The accusation goes back and forth, who's doing it is an open debate. The Ethiopian side is saying it's not the side, the other side is saying it's the Ethiopian side. Without people like myself and my colleagues actually going there and speaking to the victims, it's become so difficult to verify the information we have on hand.
I'll tell you something. I've traveled to the Amhara region, I've traveled to the Tigray region a few times, and there are victims from all sides. It's not just one side. Even the Amharas have been-- There are thousands of victims from the Amhara side, as well as the Tigray side and the Afarists, we've seen many people being impacted by what's happening in the Tigray state. Again, it's a really, really sad situation. For some of us who have been able to go to these parts of regions, we just see it as a bad dream because the impact, the victims, the numbers just keep going up. Even trying to cover it and speaking to the victims has become overwhelming and sadness and shock and so on.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Is there hope?
Samuel Getachew: Well, there's always hope. Ethiopia has gone through this kind of stuff before. 1984 famine is an example. I think Ethiopia will build self up, hopefully. Some reconciliation has to take place because it's also impacting everyday people. We hope there will be better days for Ethiopia.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Samuel Getachew is a freelance reporter based in Ethiopia. Thank you for joining us.
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