The deal between the United Nations and the government of Ethiopia for “unimpeded, sustained and secure access” for humanitarian supplies to reach those in need across areas now under its control in Tigray appears to have collapsed.
Early last December, the global body announced that agreement has been reached with the Ethiopian to allow “unimpeded, sustained and secure access” for humanitarian supplies to reach those in need across areas now under its control in Tigray.
At the moment, the Deputy UN Spokesperson, Stéphane Dujarric, says a “complex and unpredictable security situation” in Tigray has continued to impede the delivery of life-saving assistance to Ethiopia’s northern region.
Confirming details of the deal at UN Headquarters in New York, Dujarric said that the safe passage of aid supplies and staff also extends to the Ethiopian regions of Amhara and Afar, bordering Tigray, where fighting between federal and regional forces, has impacted hundreds of thousands amidst an overall population of six million in Tigray, during the past month of hostilities.
Until now, no supplies have been allowed into the conflict zone, which has displaced thousands, many across the border into Sudan.
UN humanitarian coordination office (OCHA) spokesperson based in Nairobi, Saviano Abreu, told local reporters earlier that the first mission to carry out a needs assessment would begin on Wednesday.
He added that the UN was committed to engaging with “all parties to the conflict” and ensuring that aid was distributed “strictly based on needs”.
Dujarric said that all aid distribution would be carried out “in compliance with the globally-agreed principles of humanity, impartiality, independence and neutrality. This includes working to ensure that people impacted by the conflict are assisted without distinction of any kind other than the urgency of their needs.”
Many Ethiopians have also been internally displaced from Tigray, seeking refuge in Afar and Amhara, and the UN needs assessment would aim to reach those affected by the conflict, added Mr. Dujarric.
On Monday, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) appealed to Ethiopia for urgent access to assist around 96,000 Eritrean refugees in Tigray camps, who it was estimated had essentially run out of food.
Spokesperson in Geneva, Babar Baloch, said concerns were growing “by the hour, with “hunger and malnutrition a real danger”.
Communications to the Tigray region continue to be severed, along with transportation routes, and the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, has reportedly rejected dialogue with Tigray’s regional leaders who are said to be on the run, after the regional capital was entered by federal forces last weekend.
The UN estimates that some two million are now in need of assistance in and around Tigray and some one million have been displaced by the fighting, including more than 45,000 who have fled across the border into Sudan.
At the moment, nearly six months since the conflict between Ethiopian Government security forces and regional forces of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) began in early November, most rural areas have remained cut off from communications and electricity, impacting access to health services, water supply and vital assistance, said Farhan Haq.
Meanwhile, he cited the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in saying that the UN and its humanitarian partners “continue to scale up their response, including identification and support to gender-based violence survivors”.
From Tigray to Sudan
Violence and conflict in Tigray have continued unabated since the Prime Minister ordered a military offensive following a rebel attack on a federal army base, while militias from the neighbouring Amhara region joined the fighting.
After returning last week from a visit to the conflict zone in northern Ethiopia, James Elder, spokesperson for the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said that more than a million people have been displaced.
nsecurity remains dire with an estimated 4.5 million people need food assistance across Tigray”, said Haq.
Since the end of March, the World Food Programme (WFP) has distributed nearly 9,000 metric tonnes of food, reaching nearly 529,000 people in the North Western and Southern Zones, he said.
WFP have also distributed food to nearly 34,000 people in the towns of Edgahamus and Atsibi and “more than 700,000 people were reached with water trucking services last week”, he continued. “So far, UN partners have reached 285,000 displaced people with shelter and non-food items – only 10 per cent of the targeted population”.
Meanwhile, the preparation of a displacement site in Mekelle with capacity for more than 19,000 people is ongoing, including building shelters, access roads and latrines.
However, the UN Deputy Spokesperson echoed OCHA’s warning that “the response remains inadequate to the needs”.
“Additional capacity, funds, as well as unimpeded and safe access, are needed to scale up to the level needed to respond across Tigray”, he stated.