During my deployment with WHO to support the MHPSS Technical Working Group in Ethiopia, I planned to go to Ebinat IDP camp in South Gonder, based in northern Ethiopia. This visit took several weeks of repeated planning and cancelling. Finally, we got security clearance and it happened. I guess most of you have been following the not-so-good news coming from the above-mentioned part of the Horn of Africa.

MHPSS Specialist Luther Atinya in discussion with beneficiaries

We set off early enough, braving the chilly weather in the region from the city of Bahir Dar, heading to Ebinat in south Gonder in Ethiopia. The night before our trip, the city had witnessed several gunshots that scared some of us, sending texts to our colleagues to find out whether we were safe or under an attack of some kind. Nobody knew what the gunshots were for. Along the way, we came across several buses carrying people in military clothes. They kept shooting in the air.

After an almost 2-hour drive, we arrived at the Ebinat IDP site. It was a deplorable situation. There are big tents used as houses, they look new and spacious from the outside. Inside they are empty, no blankets and no mattresses. We were shown around and what struck us was that this particular site holds only women and children. From the protection point of view, we wondered how safe the place is for only women and children. Looking around, we saw the place did not have a fence or lights, meaning the place is in total darkness at night.

IDP camp without fence and lights

One of the women, 52 years old with 4 children, told us that she is so afraid and scared when night falls. She has been here for two months already. Their other main problem was food, they had not seen food for days. She would like to go back home, but she is afraid that the junta will kill them.

Within my WHO role, I have supported the people in the Ebinat camp by raising awareness and lobbying among different partner organisations in this region. During a meeting on relocation and return, I shared my findings on the situation in the camp, specifically with partners working in protection. Also, I emphasised the need for MHPSS support coordination among the organisations involved. As a result, an assessment mission is planned to assess the needs in the camp.