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Ethiopia's humanitarian crisis impacting Colorado communities

Colorado community leader Deacon Yoseph Tafari is hoping for a peaceful resolution as community tensions rise.

COLORADO, USA — When Deacon Yoseph Tafari first came to Denver as a refugee in the 1970's, he said there were maybe half a dozen Ethiopians in the city. Now, researchers estimate Denver is home to roughly 30,000 Ethiopians. 

"It’s a very vibrant, very diverse and it has really been one of the most successful Ethiopian diaspora community in the whole United States," said Deacon Tafari. Unfortunately, he said tensions between Amhara and Tigrayan people have existed for generations. The conflict overseas in their home country, worsened them. 

"It’s almost a generation and a half that we [started] worshipping at separate churches, we go to our own community centers," Deacon Tafari said. "Now, it’s come to a head...we need to have a good understanding about making sure that we are inclusive of our own Tigrayan brothers and sisters to find a common solution and for us also to bridge the gap between our communities" 

Tafari is calling on U.S. leaders to step in and help put a stop to the humanitarian crisis that has left hundreds of thousands displaced, starving and innocent civilians killed.  

In July 2021, NBC News reported on a warning from the United Nations that more than 400,000 people were estimated to have crossed the threshold into famine. 

"For the sake of humanity, for the sake of understanding, and the suffering particularly of the civilians, we need to advance their interest more so than ours and come together to find a common solution," Deacon Tafari said. 

RELATED: Ethiopian Americans in Aurora pray for loved ones in Tigray conflict

On September 17, President Biden signed an executive order giving the Department of Treasury authority to take action against parties involved in the ongoing conflict.

In a statement released that same day, the president said his administration will "continue to press for a negotiated ceasefire, an end to abuses of innocent civilians, and humanitarian access to those in need. 

CU Denver political science associate professor Dr. Betcy Jose said the international community should pay greater attention to the humanitarian crisis occurring in Ethiopia. 

"There have been concerns that the humanitarian crisis that we see in Tigray, might eventually become as terrible as the crisis and famine that we saw in Ethiopia in the 1980's," she said.

Dr. Jose said humanitarian groups and the United Nations have claimed that the country's central government is impeding access in Tigray to people in desperate need of humanitarian aid. 

"This might be prolonged because farmers don’t have access to their fields...this can really escalate to something that could be really horrific, especially if farmers aren’t able to plant seeds and prepare their lands for harvest." Dr. Jose said. 

RELATED: Denver protesters to hold fifth march Thursday to raise awareness of deadly civil war in Ethiopia

RELATED: Colorado refugees need help finding housing amid an affordable housing crisis

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