Sexual violence and abuse are getting out of hand in the Tigray, the conflict-hit region of Ethiopia. The United Nations has received reports of sexual violence and abuse, an alarming development that needs to be addressed.

UN special representative Pramila Patten revealed that she is concerned about the serious allegations in the northern region where a high number of alleged rape cases are happening at the Tigrayan capital, Mekelle.

“There are also disturbing reports of individuals allegedly forced to rape members of their own family, under threats of imminent violence,” Patten said in a statement. “Some women have also reportedly been forced by military elements to have sex in exchange for basic commodities.”

Patten is calling on all parties involved in the hostilities to commit to a zero-tolerance policy for these crimes of sex-violence.

The thing escalated in November when Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced military operations in Tigray in early November. This was in response to attacks by the regional governing party on federal army camps.

Abiy would, later on, declare victory after federal forces entered the regional capital in late November. Leaders of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) remain on the run and have promised to fight on.

As for the sex-violence crimes, Patten added how there has been a rise in sexually transmitted diseases (STIs). This is a clear indicator that sexual violence is happening amid the conflict. Thousands have already died and the actual situation is pretty hard to monitor because of the communications blackout and media and humanitarian access restrictions.

Roughly more than 5,000 Eritrean refugees in and around the area of Shire are living in dire conditions, many of them reportedly sleeping in an open field with no water or food. More than 59,000 Ethiopians have fled the country and into Sudan.

This is not the first time that the issue of rapes in Mekelle was raised. A man in military uniform brought it to the attention of state media, expressing concern despite federal police and local police being around.

Crime Scene A New York man allegedly killed his baby daughter and fed her to a pit bull. Shutterstock/ Fer Gregory