Little girl from Tigray

The previous column “Regard” already focused on the conflict in Tigray and the inhabitants of this region of northern Ethiopia who came to seek refuge in southern Sudan. The questions remain unanswered about the responsibilities of the Ethiopian federal government and those of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front in the serious violence committed in the region. They are 45,500 Tigrayans, half of them children, to have fled their homes; gathered in camps, they do not want to believe in defeat; they even accuse the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of ethnic cleansing. The flames of hatred do not seem to be going out.

→ REPORT. War in Tigray: refugees tell their stories

Pax Christi International, relaying the words of the Ethiopian Catholic bishops, urges the two parties, the federal government and the regional government, to cease hostilities and to engage in dialogue. In addition, the Catholic peace movement points the finger at the arms vendors who supply both camps.

The situation therefore remains very worrying. But what catches the eye here is the little girl. Facing the photographer, she doesn’t pose, she doesn’t smile. Hands on her hips, proudly, even harshly, she challenges him and challenges all of us who are looking at her. She emerged from the orderly ranks of adults, mainly men, who had come, bowl in hand, to look for food in Um Rakuba camp. Neither her colorful dress nor her braided braids, but no longer very orderly, are enough to brighten up the image. Another little girl, at the end of the line, remained quietly in the line; is she tempted to join her?

Why can’t we turn away from his face?

What does this little girl want to tell us? Why can’t we turn away from his face? What do we feel guilty about? She knows that adults, decidedly, play with the future of children: those of her country of course, but also others, whether they are indifferent, concerned only with their own problems, or that they wage proxy wars. on other lands than their own soil, that they arm the peoples …

Because these conflicts prevent countries from developing. The money spent in the fighting is lacking to ensure the education, health and security of the populations. However, the Covid-19 pandemic is added to these difficulties: according to the UN World Food Program, the number of people food insecure due to the epidemic is expected to increase by 80% this year. Not necessarily because of the disease itself, but because the containment measures decided to prevent the spread of a virus that local health systems could not afford, deprive residents of their income, often linked to informal work. With problems adding to problems, in sub-Saharan Africa, for example, GDP has returned to a level of thirteen years ago, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

She may sense, too, the girl in the photo, that when civilians are affected by war, children are affected first and girls especially. Because education, which is a necessity for all, is even more so for girls, sometimes deprived of school to be married or forced to work. However, their education is a powerful lever, first for their autonomy, but also for the development of their countries. The girl in the photo invites us not to forget her.


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