Report: Hospitals in Ethiopia's Tigray struck by artillery

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Many of the hospitals in Ethiopia’s conflict-hit Tigray region, outside its capital, have been struck by artillery during two months of fighting, according to the first humanitarian assessment of the devastation as aid begins to arrive with desperately needed supplies.

The scale of the damage has been largely unknown while Ethiopian forces pursue and clash with those of the now-fugitive Tigray regional leaders. Transportation and communications links were severed. People who fled the region have told The Associated Press and others of looting and the burning of homes.

Tigray leaders dominated Ethiopia’s government for nearly three decades before Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to power and sidelined them amid sweeping reforms that won him the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize. Abiy has rejected international “interference” in the recent conflict.

The full humanitarian assessment, seen by the AP, was prepared by a joint mission of Ethiopia’s government, United Nations agencies and aid groups that visited the Tigray capital, Mekele, and communities in southern Tigray in late December after weeks of pleading by the U.N. and others for access.

Food, medical supplies and other basics had run alarmingly low across the region. The assessment cites regional authorities as saying more than 4.5 million people, more than two-thirds of the population, now need humanitarian assistance.

“Living conditions for both recently displaced people and host communities remain very critical,” the assessment states, with food, shelter and health care cited as immediate needs.

The assessment does not say who fired at hospitals or caused any of the damage; the U.N. humanitarian agency said it did not have confirmation of such details.

“The little food stock the affected communities had have either been looted, burned, or damaged,” the assessment says, adding that a locust outbreak has worsened the situation.

It adds: “As a result of the conflict, many houses, shops, and private stores were burned or damaged.” Schools, health centers, shops and other buildings were looted.

An even grimmer picture expected from an assessment based on a visit to western Tigray, where some of the fighting first erupted in early November. More than 50,000 people have fled the region into neighboring Sudan, some telling the AP of mass abductions, torture and killings along ethnic lines.