Addis Ababa [Ethopia], March 12 (ANI/Sputnik): There are widespread concerns that overcrowding at refugee centers and lack of health facilities will drive disease outbreaks in Ethiopia's conflict-torn Tigray region, a UNICEF spokesman told Sputnik.
"There is a very real risk of disease outbreak, particularly in overcrowded, unsanitary displacement sites," UNICEF Ethiopia's communication chief Victor Chinyama said in an interview.
He said the aid agency had assessed 205 of 263 hospitals and health centers in the region. Of these, 19 have been destroyed and 24 partially damaged.
The fighting between the Ethiopian government forces and regional armed forces has grounded most immunization campaigns and COVID-19 response in the state to a halt. Water supply has been disrupted and clean water is extremely rare, increasing the risk of waterborne disease outbreaks in a country that is prone to cholera flare-ups.
"Efforts to prevent the spread of the pandemic have been affected by the destruction of health and water facilities, the movement of people who are sheltering in overcrowded IDP centers with no COVID prevention measures, and the shortage of health personnel such as doctors and nurses, some of whom have gone for months without pay," Chinyama said.
Women and children make up the majority of the population in overcrowded displacement sites and refugee camps, magnifying the risk of gender-based violence, abuse, and exploitation.
"As is often the case with military confrontations, children and women are disproportionally vulnerable and endure the greatest suffering. Every effort should be made to keep children out of harm's way, to ensure that they are protected from the added risk of sexual violence and are not separated from their families by displacement," the UNICEF officer said.
Ethiopian rights groups have reported multiple cases of rape and sexual violence against the most vulnerable. Children, some 2,200 of whom were separated from their families, have been increasingly malnourished. (ANI/Sputnik)