The humanitarian space in some areas has shrunk, violence is increasing, including frequent calls for market strikes, community tensions between Gumuz and Oromo remain, and civil unrest has intensified. The humanitarian situation is marked by the inter-ethnic violence and related forced-displacement that took place in Kamashi zone and boundary areas with Oromia of September 2018, and scaled up security operations against unidentified armed groups (UAGs).
In Western Oromia, the scale and scope of violence continue to evolve into new areas, i.e. East and Horo Gudru Wellega. Since April, over 240 armed incidents have been reported, plus four market strikes. Clashes are taking place almost daily, forcing partners to suspend critical activities. In East Wellega, programmes targeting 6,900 people in Ibantu (emergency shelter and non-food items, ESNFI) and 135,000 people in Sasiga and Haro Limu woredas (WASH, Education, Nutrition) have been delayed for several weeks. In West Wellega, ESNFI distribution to 12,000 people has been interrupted, and a measles vaccination campaign is postponed.
From January - March 2020, relief operations were impacted by the shutdown of phone and internet access by the government. Further, the arrival of COVID-19 and subsequent restrictions to avoid the disease's spread also impacted operations. The end of the state of emergency in early September brought to the end of those restrictions. Despite such challenges, partners continue to operate and deliver essential services to the population.
By mid-August, national media covered the situation of 58,000 IDPs (39,000 in West, 19,000 East Wellega) who had not accessed aid for one year. This population was among those returned to Kamashi in June 2019 (64,500 in total) and re-displaced back to Oromia due to insecurity and lack of services. They live in overcrowded conditions with host communities, have minimal income, and face many protection issues, e.g., SGBV. In September, authorities authorized relief activities with food (last distribution took place in April) and shelter as main priorities following intensive advocacy.
Despite a national policy to support the free access of persons affected by conflict/displacement to health care, the population lacks access to those services due to limited resources and service unavailability. In July, in Nedjo town, partners reported deaths among IDP returnees due to lack of money to pay for health care.
Aid actors are operating in a high-risk environment. In April, a vehicle from a religious organization was ambushed by UAG in Ganji woreda, two people were killed. In another incident, in May, an ambulance was attacked by UAG, also causing casualties. The increased use of explosive devices in urban settings threatens the safety of the civilian population and aid workers. In order to ensure the safety and security of relief workers, partners are ensuring appropriate visibility during road movements, including clear identifications signs in their vehicles, distinctive from security actors. Further, partners have noted an increased number of security checkpoints, some mobile and with low visibility. Partners are also concerned that security personnel in such check points are not adhering to COVID-19 protective measures.
While the security situation in Kamashi has improved, lingering tensions at the community level continue to hamper peace efforts. Secondary displaced IDPs in West Wellega denounced that local authorities in Agelometi and Kamashi woredas had excluded them from accessing aid, preventing them from claiming the return of properties and livestock stolen during the conflict. In Belojiganfo woreda community tensions continue, with ethnic Gumuz facing movement limitations to Oromia due to insecurity, losing access to services and markets, and Oromo IDP returnees fearing further attacks (only men have returned so far). Host communities and IDP returnees complained about corrupt practices in managing assistance by local authorities. The situation remains too fragile.
The rainy season has affected access to some kebeles with poor road infrastructure, i.e., Sedal, Agalometi, and Yaso woredas in Kamashi. The main route connecting Kamashi to Oromia through Nedjo (West Wellega) is frequently impassable during heavy rains and insecurity due to active fighting with UAGs. Overall, relief programmes targeting some 120,000 people in Kamashi (28,500 Agalometi, 82,200 in Yaso, 3,500 in Sedal, and 6,000 in Belojiganfo woreda) have been impacted/delayed for two months.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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