The humanitarian landscape in Benishangul Gumuz region is marked by increased levels of violence and limited humanitarian response. Over 460,0000 people are estimated to be displaced, 318,000 of whom in Metekel zone, 79,000 in Kamashi zone, and 66,000 in Assosa zone & Mao Komo Special Woreda. Throughout the region, the humanitarian response is impeded by insecurity-related access constraints, limited partners’ presence, and lack of funding.
In Kamashi, relief activities have completely stopped, and partners have withdrawn due to insecurity while control of several woredas disputed with Unidentified Armed Groups (UAGs). The status of thousands of people who have fled to the Wellegas in Oromia region has not yet been officially recognized as displaced persons thus remain awaiting aid and protection services. In Western Oromia, access to people in need is significantly constrained by the ongoing insecurity, which in 2022 has expanded in scale and scope from Western parts of Oromia, (i.e., East, West, Kellem and Horo Gudrum Wellega zones) to Central Oromia’s West and North-West Shewa zones and areas Amhara region’s North Shewa zone.
In Metekel, inter-community tensions and violence broke out end-2019 in the border areas with West Gondar (Amhara). In 2021, violence evolved into complex armed hostilities, with reports of indiscriminate attacks against civilians. See for further background ‘Access Snapshot Metekel, BGR (April 2022) and Access Snapshot Metekel, BGR (October 2021). Since April, the security situation in some woredas has reportedly improved significantly. However, the situation in Guba and lowland areas of Wanbera, Bulen, Dibate, Dangur and parts of Madira woredas remains fluid and unpredictable. In these areas, the threat of armed attacks, ambushes, vandalization of public facilities, and criminality remain of concern. Thus far, partners have been only able to operate in areas advised as “safe” by the authorities, i.e., Dangur, Madira and Pawe, and in Dibate, Bulen and Wenbera urban areas. This has left thousands of IDPs, the majority of whom are ‘ethnic Gumuz’ who fled to rural isolated areas at the onset of the conflict, with very limited access to aid. Currently, Guba is yet only reachable with armed patrols, while lowland areas in Wenbera, Bulen and Dibate plus border areas with Amhara are still hard-to-reach.
In June, a humanitarian mission with 18 partners reached previously hard-to-reach areas for the first time in two years following a return to normalcy in some areas. According to the authorities, over 100,000 IDPs have returned to areas within partners’ reach and are in desperate need of assistance. Major protection concerns and widespread abuses were reported, including killings, kidnappings, thousands of cases of orphans and family separation, forced recruitment, and widespread sexual and gender based violence.
While more aid partners have deployed in recent months, the response capacity remains insufficient to cope with the scale of the crisis. Access to food aid, health, shelter, water and sanitation, and livelihoods are the most urgent needs. Security, financial and logistics’ challenges have reportedly hampered the provision of food aid, in some areas only 15kg of wheat per household have been provided for the past six months. In security-contested areas, displaced people have not received any assistance for the past two years. On the other hand, thousands of IDPs residing in urban areas and in places like Dangur or Madira who have accessed assistance from partners and authorities, are now willing to return to areas of origin. They require support to re-build their lives, in particular in terms of food, shelter/non-food items, access to essential services, agricultural inputs and tools.
Reportedly, the level of destruction and vandalization of public and private infrastructure has been vast, aggravating an already dire situation. Authorities report that 23,000 houses, 152 schools, 107 health facilities, 660 water schemes (out of 1,500), and 162 farmers’ training centers and animal health posts have been damaged and are currently non-functional. Government officials in most woredas are undergoing training in Assosa and are expected to return to their normal duties soonest.
Despite the intensity of armed clashes , aid agencies have not come under direct attack so far. The killing of one aid worker in December 2021 is a stark reminder about the volatility of the situation and the high likelihood of aid partners suffering collateral damage, particularly during road movements. In this sense, while partners continue engaging with all sides explaining their mandate and role, it is important for all partners to respect the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality, and operational independence, while ensuring the safety and security of aid workers and the affected population.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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