Dam down, water supplies failing in Ethiopia's conflict-hit Tigray

Ethiopian refugees stand in line to receive food, at the Hamdeyat refugee transit camp, which houses refugees fleeing the fighting in the Tigray region, on the border in Sudan, December 1, 2020. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Clean water supplies are running short in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region where a conflict has left infrastructure damaged and looted, equipment stolen and a dam inoperative, a state-run news agency said on Wednesday.

“It is difficult to provide citizens with clean water,” the Ethiopian Press Agency quoted the Tigray Water Resource Management Bureau’s deputy Gidena Medhin as saying.

Ethiopian federal forces ousted the former local ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), from the regional capital Mekelle in a war from November that killed thousands and sent tens of thousands fleeing from homes.

The United Nations says 2.3 million people - nearly half of Tigray’s population - need aid amid food shortages, lootings and inadequate healthcare facilities.

The water bureau’s Gidena said its properties had been “mercilessly” ransacked with offices almost empty of equipment, money taken from safes, and vehicles, drilling machines and generators lost. He did not say who the perpetrators were.

“The Gereb Geba clean water dam project has stopped operating as workers left the project area following the unrest created in the state,” he said, adding that there would be recognition of workers who had sought to protect offices.

With access and communications to Tigray still difficult, Reuters was unable to independently verify the report. Representatives for the TPLF, who have said weeks ago they were will still fighting from the hills, could not be reached.

The government began distributing aid last weekend after struggling to find cars to transport supplies from Mekelle throughout the rural mountainous terrain, Mulu Nega, the region’s interim leader, told Reuters on Monday.

Reporting by Nairobi newsroom; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne