This paper documents health experiences and the public health activities of the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF). The paper provides background data about Tigray and the emergence of its struggle for a democratic Ethiopia. The origins of the armed struggle are described, as well as the impact of the conflict on local health systems and health status. The health-related activities and public health strategies of the TPLF are described and critiqued in some detail, particular attention is focused on the development of the baito system, the emergent local government structures kindled by the TPLF as a means of promoting local democracy, accountability, and social and economic development. Important issues arise from this brief case-study, such as how emerging health systems operating in wartime can ensure that not only are basic curative services maintained, but preventive and public health services are developed. Documenting the experiences of Tigray helps identify constraints and possibilities for assisting health systems to adapt and cope with ongoing conflict, and raises possibilities that in their aftermath they leave something which can be built upon and further developed. It appears that promoting effective local government may be an important means of promoting primary health care.