STORY: Tigray Update – UN Emergency Relief Coordinator
SOURCE: UNTV CH
ASPECT RATIO: 16:9
DATELINE: 6 August 2021, GENEVA, SWITZERLAND
Ceasefire in Tigray more urgent than ever: UN emergency relief chief
A ceasefire in Tigray on humanitarian grounds is needed now more than ever if a massive aid operation across frontlines is to succeed, the UN’s emergency relief chief said on Friday.
Speaking from UN Geneva, Martin Griffiths highlighted the urgency of the situation for all those affected in the northern Ethiopian region, after eight months of fighting between Government forces and those loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
Earlier this week, the UN official warned that 200,000 people had been displaced by fighting in neighbouring Amhara region, along with more than 50,000 in Afar.
“This war has to stop, this war has to end; we will all of us continue to try to make sure that those 100 trucks a day reach Mekelle, reach the beneficiaries,” Mr. Griffiths insisted. “We will do everything we can to help the people affected in Amhara and Afar, while continuing the work in other parts of Ethiopia.”
Highlighting the logistical challenge of negotiating aid access into Tigray while the violence continues, the UN emergency relief chief said that he had “no reason to doubt” the ceasefire announced by Ethiopian premier Abiy Ahmed, who he met in person in Addis Ababa on a six-day visit, along with other senior government leaders.
“The Prime Minister has issued a unilateral ceasefire, he repeated his commitment to it on the two occasions that we met and I have no reason to doubt that at all. For the Tigrayans who are spreading the war into the south and east, into Afar and Amhara, they need to take into account that without that ceasefire, we will try to get those 100 trucks in, but it’s going to be easier for the Tigrayan people if the war is stopped.”
Since conflict erupted last November, humanitarian needs have grown, amid killings, looting and destruction of health centres and farming infrastructure, including irrigation systems that are vital to successful harvests.
Some 400,000 people face famine in Tigray, UN humanitarians have warned repeatedly, in recent weeks.
“They need food, the harvest which has recently been planted is likely only to produce between a quarter and maximum a half of its likely production. So, the need for food is going to go right through until next year,” said Mr. Griffiths.
“They need re-equipment of primary health centres. We saw hospitals and health centres destroyed, the equipment taken away. There are health workers but not salaries.”
Noting that some 178 aid trucks had reportedly reached Tigray regional capital Mekelle in recent days, with another 40 waiting to arrive, the UN official underscored how difficult it has been to secure regular aid access amid checkpoint delays and detailed searches, which he had experienced at first hand on a UN flight to Mekelle.
“The frustration of agencies – and you know, I’ve just spent two days with them – national NGOs, international NGOs, UN agencies, is that they have access, but haven’t had the supplies needed to exploit the access,” he said. So, hopefully a little bit better today because of those 178 trucks, but a lot – a lot – still to be done.”
Despite the complexity of the situation, Mr. Griffiths maintained that his discussions with the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign minister and the Minister of Peace and others had been “very constructive” during his just-completed visit to Addis Ababa and Tigray. “They of course told me that they were very keen to help on the difficult issue of delivery of assistance and then protection of civilians,” he added, before repeating his condemnation of the “very high degree of rhetoric” which had seen humanitarian officials and aid workers “condemned in public and on social media” for “feeding the Tigrayan machine”.
“I spoke to those leaders that I’ve mentioned that any such criticisms need to stop. First of all, it threatens the lives of people who are there to help, and secondly of course, it has an impact on humanitarian delivery,” he said.