Humanitarian crisis persists in Tigray region

By AGGREY MUTAMBO

Ethiopia’s Tigray and neighbouring regions are still facing a humanitarian crisis, made worse by a continuing blockade and sporadic violence.

A situational update by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Unocha) this week said only a small percentage of people in need have been reached as most access roads to Tigray remain blocked.

According to the report, most of Tigray remained highly restricted and that the “security situation is extremely volatile, compromising the security and safety of the population and aid workers impeding relief operations on a permanent basis.” For that, aid workers have only managed to enter the region for “lifesaving” operations.

Tigray, where the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the rebel group, has been fighting government and allied militia forces since November 2020 has caused more than six million people to face food shortages and other basic humanitarian needs. This week, the UN airlifted about 100 metric tonnes of health and nutrition supplies to Mekelle, Tigray, to beat the roadblocks.

But the violence has spilled over to neighbouring regional administrative areas of Amhara and Afar, whose militia have supported government forces.

“Ongoing hostilities continue to increase humanitarian needs with a growing number of displaced people in Afar and Amhara,” the update said on Thursday, referring to the more than 9.4 million people overall in all these regions who require assistance. The UN says it will need up to $957 million to support everyone in need, as long as there is access, until May this year. It has raised $619 million by Thursday.

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But the war itself continues to churn out atrocities from both sides. A report published by the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission this week says there have been continued abuses in Afar and Amhara regions.

It said: “At least 346 civilians have been subjected to unlawful and extra-judicial killing by parties to the conflict – mainly by Tigray Forces.

“ENDF (Ethiopian National Defence Forces), Amhara Special Forces, Fano and other militia also committed unlawful and extrajudicial killing of and caused physical injuries to civilians they suspected of supporting Tigray Forces or OLF-Shane.

National forces and allied militia reportedly engaged in extra-judicial killings and other inhumane treatment of civilians.

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