Internally displaced populations are in dire need of humanitarian and recovery assistance following the reported cessation of military operations on November 28, after more than three weeks of combat in the northern Ethiopian regional state of Tigray by the Ethiopian National Defence Forces.
Ahead of the inter-agency needs assessments underway this week, the UN migration agency is scaling up its operational and technical capacity to respond.
Military operations led by the Ethiopian Federal Defence against forces linked to the Tigray Regional Security Forces (TRSF) have been underway since last November 4, following a reported attack on the Ethiopian Northern Command federal forces based in Tigrayan regional state.
Weeks into the conflict the situation escalated beyond the Tigray Regional State, with the shelling of airports reported in Bahir Dar and Gondar in the Amhara Region, and installations in the Eritrean capital of Asmara.
The result has been a tense and volatile humanitarian situation, with thousands of people reportedly displaced internally within the Tigray Regional State and beyond into the neighbouring regional states of Amhara and Afar.
While humanitarian organisations are still not able to access the region to carry out assessments and respond to the increasing humanitarian needs due to the ongoing armed confrontations, shortage of basic supplies and services have been reported across the Tigray Region at a time when Ethiopia is grappling with a dire humanitarian situation caused by internal displacement, the desert locust infestation resulting in food insecurity, and all of this in the COVID-19 pandemic context.
Without unconditional humanitarian access, there is great concern about the delivery of the most basic services, including water, food and essential medicines.
With daunting challenges ahead, IOM is scaling up its preparedness operations in country in order to increase its readiness to provide humanitarian and protection assistance to the affected populations and their host communities in Northern Ethiopia.
This plan is in line with the Inter-Cluster Coordination Group (ICCG) Humanitarian Preparedness Plan for the period of November 2020 to January 2021, which estimates a total caseload of 1.98 million in the worst-case scenario of the escalating humanitarian crisis.
Shelter and Non-Food Items (NFI) Pipeline On top of the existing humanitarian needs that Ethiopia was facing, the global COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted humanitarian service delivery in the last year, warranting a robust and coordinated response through the establishment of a Shelter and NFI Pipeline.
With the current crisis in the Northern area of the country, it is vital to support humanitarian partners in their delivery of humanitarian assistance in affected areas. Emergency shelter and Non-Food Items (NFI) kits have been identified as urgent needs by ES/NFI Cluster partners’ due to the lack of available stocks to allow a timely response to better access.
Therefore, in the preparedness phase of this response, IOM will focus on procurement and prepositioning of 25,000 Non-Food Items and 10,000 Emergency shelter kits in order to ensure that vulnerable populations have increased access to services and supplies through enhanced coordination and the provision of key humanitarian supplies by humanitarian actors as soon as access is granted.
In addition, communal shelter materials such as corrugated galvanised iron sheets (CGI) and nails will also be procured and pre-positioned. When possible, items will be procured from local suppliers. Additionally, IOM will continue to conduct quick market assessments for availability of local materials in locations close by to the affected population.
As soon as access is granted, IOM Core Pipeline will support partner responses in high priority locations where needs are identified. 2. Shelter and Non-Food Items Assistance The humanitarian situation in Tigray region remains highly tense and volatile with fighting between Federal and Tigray regional forces moving towards densely populated areas and displacing thousands of people in the area.
Based on previous displacement trends, it is expected that the affected population settle with simple structures using local materials that provide minimal protection, privacy, safety and comfort and leaving all personal belonging behind.
In order to ensure a timely and efficient response, IOM will start procuring sufficient core relief items including NFIs and shelter materials until access to Tigray Region is allowed. Additionally, IOM will strengthen existing partnerships with cash delivery mechanisms such as the Ethiopian Postal Service and banks to identify if the modality would be feasible for use in this new area.
As soon as access in granted, IOM will aim to provide direct lifesaving assistance based on the needs identified. This will include the distribution of NFI and emergency shelter kits, the set-up of communal shelters and cash for rent assistance.
All distributions will take into account the local context and specific needs and vulnerabilities of beneficiaries, mainstreaming protection concerns and gender considerations, and will have COVID 19 mitigation measures in place.
In the unlikely event that the number of people affected in the area is lower than the estimated projections by the clusters, IOM will redirect the assistance to meet the needs of other affected displaced populations in Ethiopia.
The Emergency Shelter/NFI Cluster is critical to ensuring timely responses, coordination, and costeffectiveness in Ethiopia. Establishing ES/NFI sub-cluster presence in Tigray will be necessary to allow appropriate and effective coordination with the Emergency Operational Cell as well as UN agencies, international and national NGOs, and local partners.
The sub-national cluster will also ensure appropriate advocacy on behalf of the affected population as well as produce relevant sector products such as 5Ws, 4Ws, situation reports and response dashboards. As such, in the next three months, IOM will establish the sub-cluster team to be deployed in a location converging area of displacement in the Northern regions of the country. The team will consist of a sub-national coordinator and an Information Management (IM) Officer.
Considering the forecasted needs, IOM’s Migration Emergency Funding Mechanism has allocated $1.00 million to urgently mobilise global stocks of shelter, non-food items (NFIs) and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services to ensure that humanitarian assistance can be immediately delivered to the affected populations once access is granted.
“We are committed to providing humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable as soon as we can reach the affected populations and can assess the increasing needs”, said Maureen Achieng, IOM’s Chief of Mission in Ethiopia.
“Access to the affected regions is paramount to understanding the numbers and whereabouts of those forced to flee.”
IOM’s current preparedness efforts, highlighted in the appeal, are designed to ensure that the most pressing humanitarian needs are met and to lay the foundation for recovery. Additional information on vulnerabilities, access to services, numbers and locations of affected populations will further inform the long-term response once available.
Funding toward this appeal will allow the Organization to provide shelter and NFIs as well as health and WASH services in affected communities. It will also enable IOM to support adequate protection and assistance in displacement sites.
In addition, IOM will employ its Displacement Tracking Matrix to inform the collective humanitarian and development response and better prioritize the allocation of resources.
As a first step, a surge team of technical experts has been deployed to Addis Ababa to guarantee that adequate expertise is available in affected areas, hence fostering a streamlined humanitarian coordination and response.
The emergency in northern Ethiopia comes at a time when the country is grappling with a humanitarian situation worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic and an ongoing desert locust infestation which has negatively impacted food security levels.
Prior to November, IOM’s DTM recorded a total of 1.8 million people internally displaced by insecurity and disasters across the country. IOM will continue to accelerate efforts to respond to this population in its programming with a view to conclusively address and resolve internal displacement in Ethiopia.
The appeal for the Northern Ethiopia Crisis is in line with the ICCG’s Humanitarian Preparedness Plan.
IOM’s Global Crisis Response Platform provides an overview of IOM’s plans and funding requirements to respond to the evolving needs and aspirations of those impacted by, or at risk of, crisis and displacement in 2020 and beyond. The Platform is regularly updated as crises evolve and new situations emerge.