Humanitarian partners' access to Tigray improved in March, with the replacement of the previous "clearance process" for the deployment of international aid workers at the Federal level with a new flexible "notification" system and further flexibility in the movement of relief cargo to the region. Despite these marked improvements, access to large areas continues to be impeded by insecurity, and the humanitarian response remains limited, particularly in rural hard-to-reach areas.
Five months since the start of the conflict, the population in rural areas (80 percent before the conflict), including those living in major towns in the North-Western such as Sheraro, Zana, Endabaguna and the whole Western zone, continue to lack access to essential services such as electricity, health, water and sanitation, and education.
The conflict hinders access to public social protection institutions such as judicial systems and police services.
Victims and people with special needs – including refugees and IDPs – remain unable to access any referral mechanisms, highly vulnerable and unattended.
Active hostilities between Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) and Eritrea Defense Forces (ErDF) against Tigray Special Forces (TSF) and associated militias – including airstrikes, heavy artillery, and hit-and-run attacks -continue in rural areas of North-Western, Central, Eastern, South-Eastern and Southern zones. As a result, in March, partners had limited access to Abergele, Hahayle, Edaga Arbi, Emba Sieneti, Endefeasi woredas (Central); Saharti, Samre or Wajirat woredas (South-Eastern); Bora, Neqsefe, Ofla or Zata woredas (Southern); Asgede, Tahtay Koraro or Tsimbla woredas (North- Western). According to the Emergency Coordination Centre (ECC) in Mekele, some 300,000 people in the Central zone, i.e., Chila, Rama, Ahsea, Egela, Adet, and Hahayle, have not received any food aid since the beginning of the conflict.
In March, heavy fighting largely subsided in areas bordering Eritrea in the Eastern, and northern areas of North-Western and Central zones, where a significant presence of ErDF is reported. Nonetheless, relief operations in those areas remain limited, and reports of trepidation within communities continue to be received, including house-to-house searches, sexual violence, and violence against civilians.
Further, government counterparts and partners have reported instances of discrimination in terms of access to aid and aid diversion by parties to the conflict.
Access improved in some previously inaccessible areas of the Central zone, i.e., Abi Adi town and surrounding woredas, allowing increasing movements and operations by partners. On the other hand, fighting escalated in South-Eastern and Southern zones, hindering access to previously accessible woredas, i.e., Samre or Saharti (South-Eastern), hampering relief efforts. At the time of writing, reports indicate the population has largely vacated towns like Gijet or Samre (South-Eastern) while in the Southern zone, people could only access food aid in Maychew town, having to walk significant distances.
In North-Western, for the first time since the beginning of the conflict, partners were allowed access by parties to the conflict to the former refugee camps of Hitsas and Shimelba. Out of the 20,000 refugees who lived in the camps prior to the crisis, 7,000 reached the other two Eritrean refugee camps of Mai Aini and Adi Harush (North-Western), and UNHCR has contacted some 2,000 in Shire, Mekele, Afar, and Addis Ababa. The whereabouts of the rest remain unknown. According to zone authorities, 70 percent of the North-Western zone is controlled by ErDF. Despite being accessible, minimal assistance has reached areas bordering Eritrea, including Sheraro, Adi Hageray, or Seyemti Adyabo woredas.
While no active fighting is reportedly taking place in the Western zone, reports of forced displacement of Tigraypopulation and denials of assistance to people of Tigray origin in areas close to Dansha by local authorities and armed groups continue to emerge. Reportedly, armed groups in the area deny partners' access to the population stranded in areas close to the Tekezi river bordering North-Western Tigray in Korarit woreda. In March, tens of thousands fled from Western to North-Western Tigray. In Shire, a recent assessment reported as many as 450,000 displaced (pre-conflict population was 80,000), sheltering in at least 14 collective sites and living among the community or scattered in rural areas.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.