The name Zenzelema has a nice ring to it and sounds like a happy place.

Zenzelema kebele is a satellite kebele of the Amhara Regional capital of Bahr Dar, located on the eastern shore of Lake Tana, the largest lake in Ethiopia and where the Blue Nile River exits the lake. The mild climate, lush vegetation, and lakefront gives Bahr Dar a scenic aura.

However, since four months ago, this kebele has been hosting thousands of IDPs fleeing the Tigray conflict that has now crossed the border and arrived in the heart of the Amhara Region. Most fled from North and South Wollo and Waghemra zones now under TPLF’S control. For most, this is the second, third, fourth wave of displacement in the space of four months.


Tse’ada Mohammed. ©Sophie Gebreyes/LWF.2020

Tse’ada Mohammed is such a person who fled From Hara in Raya Kobo, some 407.08 km from Bahr Dar as the TPLF forces advanced southward from Tigray.

Tse’ada fled with her three children, Yonas 12, Henock 8, and Biruk 3. Tse’ada found out she was pregnant with her fourth child after she fled Hara, in flight.

With her bad leg, pregnant, and three young children in tow, the multiple displacements were trying at best.

Like most women in Amhara region these days, her husband, Amarew Wossen joined the Amhara Special Forces -- and the war effort-- since the conflict began. With the conflict raging and with no sign of abating, they have been separated for months. Tse’ada does not know whether he is dead or alive.

Before the war spilled over into Raya from southern Tigray, Tse’ada and her husband were buying vegetables from Raya and selling them in Hara with a small markup. It was a subsistence living but they enjoyed a happy, quiet and most importantly a peaceful life. Ethiopians from Tigray and Amhara regions lived peacefully in good neighborliness until this conflict broke out and people began to turn against each other.

Tse’ada and her children, left to right: Henock, Yonas and Biruk. ©Sophie Gebreyes/LWF.2020

When news broke that Hara in Raya Kobo was going to fall to the TPLF, they fled to Woldia on foot some 50km away and stayed there for a week, when they had to flee again, walking another 31 km to Mersa. In Mersa, they were able to take the bus to Dessie, another 89 km away. Tse’ada and children stayed in Dessie for three months when the conflict caught up with them and had to flee again for the fourth time, this time to the regional capital Bahr Dar in the Zenzelema IDP site.

Life in Zenzelema is hard, it is crowded, there is no food, no water and the sanitation situation is critical with no latrines. There is open defecation everywhere as the buildings turned into make shift IDP site were meant for a vegetable and fruit market for residents of Bahr Dar which never opened for business therefore no provisions were made for hygiene and sanitation facilities.

Besides food, NFIs, Tse’ada worries about access to health as she needs medicines to treat her disability as well as for regular check-ups for her condition. Tse’ada dreams of delivering her baby back home in Hara and of being reunited with her husband. Simple dreams, but ones that remain elusive.

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