For nearly nine months, thousands of Ethiopian parents have been living in agony over the fate of their children who remain stranded in various universities across the conflict-hit Tigray region.
Several universities in the northern region warned in late July of facing challenges to feed the students and guarantee their safety, putting pressure on the federal and regional governments, as well as the United Nations, to act.
“The constant worry of her safety is becoming overwhelming and her father has become bed-ridden with depression and anxiety.”
According to the United Nations, more than 90 percent of Tigray’s population is in need of emergency food, with hundreds of thousands suffering from famine conditions. This week, UNICEF warned that more than 100,000 children in the region could face acute malnutrition this year.
In February, a bus carrying 41 students from Mekelle University with their new degrees to Addis Ababa was attacked by unknown gunmen in Tigray’s Adi Mesino. Seven young people were reportedly killed in the attack, highlighting the complexity of the situation and the dangerous conditions in the region.
Last week, an estimated 2,000 parents and relatives held a peaceful protest in front of the compound of the UN and the Ethiopian Ministry of Science and Higher Education in Addis Ababa, blocking roads and demanding the safe and immediate evacuation of their children.
Families met ministry officials and were assured by the government that action would be taken, according to those present at the meeting.
Al Jazeera reached out to the ministry and the UN resident and humanitarian coordinator in Ethiopia, Catherine Sozi, but it did not receive a reply by the time of publication.
Some parents reportedly also travelled to Afar on their own hoping to enter Tigray and bring their children back, but were unable to do so due to an escalation in fighting.