UN working at ‘full speed’ to prepare for humanitarian mission to Ethiopia’s Tigray
The UN’s humanitarian coordination wing, OCHA, said on Friday that the Organization is doing its utmost to secure aid access to Ethiopia’s Tigray region, after a deal was struck to reach displaced civilians, after weeks of fighting between federal and regional forces.
“There are still operational issues of logistical nature, some of them are of security nature, that are being worked out so that we can proceed with the missions of everyone of course are working full speed to make that happen,” said Jens Laerke, spokesperson, for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
On Wednesday, the UN announced that agreement had been reached with the Ethiopian Government to allow “unimpeded, sustained and secure access” for humanitarian supplies to reach those in need across areas now under its control in the north-eastern area.
At a press conference in Geneva, UN Refugee Agency UNHCR said that it was “ready to resume its full humanitarian activities in the Tigray region as soon as the situation allows following an agreement to restore access”.
Spokesperson Babar Baloch told journalists that “Ethiopian refugee arrivals continue into Sudan with a total number now have crossed 47,000”.
More than 1,000 people arrived on Thursday with more on the move behind them in search of safety, including “a small number” of Eritrean refugees, the UNHCR official said.
To date, 11,150 refugees have been transferred from Hamdayet and Abderafi border points to Um Rakuba camp, some 70 kilometres away from the Ethiopian border.
Mr Baloch noted that in the town of Shire in Tigray, the agency and partners “have already distributed water, high energy biscuits, clothes, mattresses, sleeping mats and blankets to an estimated 5,000 internally displaced people”.
But he added that discussions were still ongoing “with the federal government’s refugee agency on logistics arrangements, and the need to assess the security situation before the resumption of humanitarian activities”.
Responding to concerns about the impact of the conflict on civilians, World Health Organization (WHO) spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic said that the worsening of the COVID-19 pandemic in the region was to be expected, along with “injuries, malnutrition, communicable diseases such as malaria, as well as increased needs for non-communicable diseases drugs”.
For the World Food Programme (WFP), spokesperson Tomson Phiri said that the agency welcomed the signing of the agreement to enable access to areas under the Federal Government’s control in Tigray region and the bordering areas of Amhara and Afar regions.
The agency’s priority “is to locate some of the 50,000 Eritrean refugees who before the conflict received, received food assistance in four camps in Tigray” he added, although it was possible “that some may have fled by now in search of safety”.
WFP will continue to seek ways to “speed up delivery of food supplies to refugee camps in Tigray as well as to reach people in need elsewhere”, Mr Phiri insisted, noting that the agency has provided supplementary food assistance to 42,000 people in Tigray.
Overall, some one million people received humanitarian support before the fighting began in early November, according to WFP.
Ahead of assessment missions by the UN and its partners, the Organization provisionally estimated that up to two million people from Tigray Region would need assistance, WFP said in a statement.