Tigrayan children unable to receive crucial vaccines as war continues

A woman with her child waits amongst many others to be seen at a clinic in Southern Tigray. A woman with her child waits amongst many others to be seen at a clinic in Southern Tigray. UNICEF/ Christine Nesbitt

21 September 2022

As the two year long civil war in Tigray, Ethiopia continues, the rate in which children are vaccinated against deadly diseases has plummeted.

Throughout 2022 there has been a rise in cases of deadly diseases among children in Tigray, including measles, tetanus, and whooping cough. Ten out of the 35 districts in the Tigray region have reported measles outbreaks while there have been 25 cases of neonatal tetanus: an increase from only two cases per year since 2019. This is a result of drastic decreases in vaccine administration to children. In 2020, over 90% of children were vaccinated against targeted diseases, such as tuberculosis and measles, but that rate has now dropped below 10% in 2022. 

Civil war in the region has been ongoing since 2020 as Tigrayan forces, led by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), battle against the central Ethiopian government. The conflict has forced over 2 million people from their homes, killed thousands of civilians, furthered widespread starvation, and blocked essential supplies from civilians. Vaccinations can not be safely delivered to hospitals due to blockades, which neither the Ethiopian government nor the TPLF will take responsibility for. This lack of vaccines further impacts civilians and hospitals that are already suffering from a major shortage of lifesaving medication, such as insulin, as well as a disastrously low stock of supplies to treat civilians wounded from the conflict.

Multiple sources have deemed this blockade of vaccinations, medicine, and other supplies as a crime against humanity, as organizations such as the UN's World Food Program (WFP) are actively attempting to aid with the crisis. As of right now, WFP has a vaccine delivery planned but is still waiting to be cleared by the Ethiopian government. 

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by Nicole Piusienski

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