East or west home is best and going back to one’s motherland after many decades elsewhere is what any person would look forward to with great expectation. But sometimes, one may end up regretting the nostalgia.
My friend, Nelly Mesfin, was filled with joy the day she was coming back. You see, Nelly’s mother had relocated to Melbourne from their Tigray home when she was just one year old; so, Mesfin knew almost nothing about her home country apart from what she read in history books and heard from her mother.
In February 2020, before air travel restrictions were imposed due to coronavirus, Mesfin and her mother boarded a flight for Ethiopia’s capital city, Addis Ababa. Both were eagerly looking forward to reconnecting with family. Addis would be a short stopover before they headed to Tigray’s capital, Mekele- the origin of their roots.
Little did the 24-year-old know that by November Tigray would be a war zone leaving her friends and other relatives in Melbourne thinking she was dead or displaced to either Eritrea, Sudan, or Somalia; countries where everyone sought refuge despite the daily conflicts they too experienced.
Mesfin had grown up hearing stories from her mum about the war that had fled them to Melbourne and never had she thought she would as well find herself in a similar situation one day.
Circumstances in Tigray grew dire as days went by. Seeing people dying, mothers and children cry helplessly at the sight of their homes and property being destroyed to the extent of getting people displaced was the worst thing Mesfin ever imagined could happen to humanity.
Airstrikes, gunshots, and ambulance siren were the order of the day filling the entire Tigray atmosphere with tension. Mesfin and her mother luckily managed to escape to Addis Ababa for safety as many Tigrayans fled to refugee camps.
The events of the war disturbed Mesfin’s mind after which her curiosity led her to discover the armed conflict between the Ethiopian National Defense Forces and the Tigrayan regional forces, that erupted on the eve of 3rd November was the latest in a long series of confrontations between Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the leaders of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which governs the regional state bordering Eritrea.
The plight of women especially those pregnant is what broke her heart most, as many have thus far experienced a rough time stabilizing in the harsh conditions following displacements. The fact that Tigray has not been accessing humanitarian aid, with starvation being a threat in the area worsens the scenario. Red cross assessment of the situation indicates that 80% of Tigray is cut off from aid and warns of tens of thousands at risk of starvation. Severe cases of malnutrition are being witnessed.