Teresa Tsfa gave birth on the road, alone, under a blazing sun, after walking for seven hours.
Passersby found her, gave her clean clothes, and bathed her newborn son in a puddle.
The 25-year-old is one of many tens of thousands of refugees fleeing Ethiopia, each with their own story of horror and hardship.
Teresa eventually made it to the Um Rakouba camp in Sudan, but her husband is in custody in Ethiopia and she doesn’t know where her seven-year-old son is.
They fled together in panic, but parted ways.
“She was left behind when I got there. I got scared and ran. When we got to the road there were shots, I gave birth.”
Her new son is 14 days old, but she is struggling to feed him.
There are 6,000 people in Um Rakouba camp, more than 40,000 in Sudan in total, approximately 100,000 in neighboring Eritrea.
Almost half of the refugees are children under the age of 18. Around 700 women are pregnant.
Blaines Alfao Eileen, at eight months old, is one of them.
He walked for four days from Mai-Kadra.
Her friend, Lemlem Haylo Rada, has a similar story to Teresa’s.
She also lost her husband and was forced to give birth on the roadside, a girl.
The 24-year-old is also struggling to breastfeed her newborn daughter.
“I have no milk for her and she cries all night and I have no clothes. In fact, I have nothing. I only have this dress and I don’t even have underwear,” she said.
Food and water are scarce, there is little protection from the scorching sun, and the threat of hostilities is never far away.
The Ethiopian government is trying to purge the north of the country of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, which in turn wants to rule the region.
“Conditions here are pretty dire and it’s a pretty desperate community that needs it here,” says Will Carter, who represents the Norwegian Refugee Fund at the camp.
“The displacement was so sudden, many are missing from their families, were separated or understood that they are unfortunately dead.
“People have come in all kinds of conditions with absolutely nothing.
“No money. No more clothes. No food, no contact with people.”
Javanshir Hajiyev of the aid organization Mercy Corps says: “Imagine everything, literally everything, from the food to the water you drink, to going to the bathroom and washing your hands, for everything you depend on. Someone else. This is it. really a very serious situation. I can’t stress too much how difficult it is. ”
Ethiopia is no stranger to humanitarian disasters, of course, and another is happening right now.
From the peace prize to the civil war
Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 for ending a 17-year conflict with his northern neighbor, Eritrea.
However, his campaign against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front has been brutal.
The Tigrayans once ruled Ethiopia, which is now the world’s second most populous country in Africa behind Nigeria, with a population of 114 million.
But the presence of its independent-minded rebels is no longer welcome and Ethiopia has now entered the “final stage” of a military “law enforcement” operation, according to the prime minister’s office.
The conflict is centered in the city of Mekelle, where he spent a 72-hour period to surrender on Thursday, and half a million residents are told to leave the city or face the consequences.
Ahmed sanctioned the airstrikes, one of which hit the university and injured some students.
“We have completed the mountainous battles and we are in the chapter where it is downhill from now on,” said Colonel Dejene Tsegaye.
“The war from now on is about tanks.
“We call on the people of Mekelle to protect themselves, to separate from the junta.
“After that, there is no mercy. The board hides between the community and the community must distance itself from the board.
“The community is expected to tell the board ‘get away from me’ and ‘don’t make them annihilate me.’
Redwan Hussien, spokesman for the State of Emergency, said: “It is human for people to make the right decision. A choice that will save themselves, a choice that will save their future. Because now that TPLF leaders are hiding in a city densely populated, a slightest blow would end up losing lives or property or sacred places. “
But Debretsion Gebremichael, the regional president of Tigray, insisted: “Our new force is getting stronger and more powerful. It is acquiring additional weaponry and developing its capabilities. It is making history. But this is not a battle of armies. This is a civil battle war. And all of us, as Tigrayans, supporting each other, alongside our army, must defend this and complete the victory. “
The UN World Food Program cannot access Mekelle, where it has warehouses.
And the lack of electricity, telecommunications and access to fuel and cash is hampering other humanitarian efforts.
The international community is calling for an immediate reduction. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, have died.
“Along with the victims, the danger of a major humanitarian crisis is imminent,” tweeted the European Union Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarcic.
Ahmed has rejected international “interference”.
His government has said that three high-level African Union envoys can meet with him, but not with Tigray leaders.
Human Rights Watch warns that “actions that deliberately impede aid supplies” violate international humanitarian law.
Tigrayan leaders have also accused federal forces of killing innocent civilians while attacking churches and homes.
“The highly aggressive rhetoric from both sides regarding the fight for Mekelle is dangerously provocative and runs the risk of putting already vulnerable and frightened civilians in grave danger,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, it’s a statement.
Meanwhile, the conflict has spread to Eritrea, where the TPLF has fired rockets, and also to Somalia, where Ethiopia has disarmed several hundred Tigrayans into a peacekeeping force fighting al-Qaeda-linked militants.
And this week, confirmation emerged of an atrocity in Mai-Kadra, where 600 ethnic civilians were killed earlier this month.
According to the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, the youth, with the help of local officials and the police, went door to door executing ethnic citizens.
Atsbaha Gtsadik, another refugee in Um Rakouba, said: “The country has no peace. It saddens me very much. The country has no peace. You see one tribe killing another. It is very difficult.”