Since the conflict in Tigray began in November 2020, I have on several occasions finished an emotional call with my friend and co-worker there and thought to myself that things could not possibly get any worse. And then they have.

Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow
Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow
Mary's Meals founder and CEO

Back to all stories | Posted on 03/08/22 in News

In the last few weeks, my friend and co-worker brought me up to speed on the latest horrors caused by the total humanitarian blockade of Tigray – one imposed by the Ethiopian Government, in full view of the world, which now threatens the lives of millions of desperate people.  

Fuel has all but run dry. Food stocks, already meager, look like they can last another two weeks at most. It is no longer possible to withdraw cash from the banks so, even if some new supplies appear from somewhere, our co-worker explains that she does not know how they can find any way to buy them for the thousands of displaced people they are caring for. Hospitals, having run out of the most basic supplies, are closing too. And, as if all this is too slow a way for people to die, government airstrikes are becoming more frequent.  

My co-worker shared: “It is only the Grace from God that is keeping us going. Tigray is completely isolated, and it often feels that no one cares – fifteen months on, we keep wondering when it will end. How can we survive, how are we even living as human beings? It is as if they’re intending to eliminate us from the face of the earth. We are still alive, yet we just keep wondering how we are still able to exist?” 

But local partners are certainly not sitting around feeling sorry for themselves. In recent weeks, in addition to their daily work of providing support for 30,000 displaced people (using funding from your donations to Mary’s Meals), they have also been carrying out surveys of the communities where Mary’s Meals used to provide school feeding programs. They want to assess how quickly we can get those up and running again, knowing this is critical in keeping any hope for the future alive.  

While supporting the communities, local partners have heard many stories about the horrors unfolding throughout Tigray.  

“Lidya’s eyes are always brimming with tears now.” That is what concerned villagers said about their 15-year-old neighbor. 

It wasn’t like that before the war. Lidya is one of five children, and her parents were farmers who were excited to raise a new breed of milk cow they had purchased with a microloan. After the war began, the area around their village became a battleground.  

When the fighting broke out here for the fifth time early in 2021, Lidya’s father did what he had done several times before and sent his wife and children, along with their neighbors, to nearby caves in the mountains to seek safety. He remained at home to protect their belongings from looting. From their hiding place that evening, they could hear shooting in the area of their village. After sunset, all became quiet, so Lidya’s mother decided to return to their home in the darkness to collect some food for her children.   

The five children waited all night in the cave for her to return, hunger and terror keeping them awake. “I didn’t sleep the whole night, and since there were many civilian killings in our area, I was worried that bad things would happen to my parents.” Lidya recollects today, “But, I tried to hide my feelings from my brothers and sisters.” The next morning, it soon became clear that all who had remained in their homes had been killed. That was the last time Lidya and her siblings saw their parents.  

Lidya’s story is just one of countless tragedies unfolding all around our partners. All day long they listen to people pouring out the agony of their experience while trying to stay strong and console them. It is unsurprising why our partner sometimes breaks down on calls.  

What it is to be human? That is what the crying people of Tigray ask of us today. It is a question this atrocity is asking a world that seems, in the case of Tigray, to have forgotten the answer.