Ethiopia

Ethiopia: Metekel Zone, Benishangul Gumuz Region, Flash Update No. 2 (29 January 2021)

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HIGHLIGHTS

• On 21 January, the federal Government of Ethiopia declared a State of Emergency in Metekel Zone in Benishangul Gumuz Region (BGR).

• Since mid-2020, 180,000 civilians have been displaced within Metekel and in Amhara.

• These IDPs are in addition to the 28,000 returnees formerly displaced in 2019 by inter-communal violence, whose livelihoods had barely stabilized when unidentified armed groups intensified their activities.

• On 24 January, 1256 ethnic Gumuz asylum seekers reportedly arrived in Sudan’s Blue Nile Province.

• Humanitarian situation may worsen, as access remains severely restricted by insecurity.

• The regional Government has been providing limited life-saving assistance since July 2020 using armed escorts.

• The federal Government is establishing an Emergency Coordination Center (ECC) to coordinate the humanitarian response in Metekel Zone.

SITUATION OVERVIEW

Insecurity in Metekel Zone, which has been ongoing since 2019, has rapidly escalated in the past three months, prompting the federal Government of Ethiopia declared a State of Emergency in Metekel Zone on 21 January. Since July 2020, attacks by unidentified armed groups (UAGs) have cumulatively displaced 150,000 people in Bullen, Dangur, Dibate, Guba, Mandura and Wombera woredas, representing over 30 per cent of the total population of Metekel Zone, which was about 479,162 people, according to the 2007 census. Approximately 100,000 internally displace people (IDPs) are inside Metekel while the other more than 77,000 have fled to the neighbouring Awi Zone in Amhara Region. On 24 January, 566 ethnic Gumuz asylum seekers reportedly arrived in Sudan’s Blue Nile Province.

On 23 December 2020, at least 207 people were reportedly killed by UAGs in one day. On 16 January 2021, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission reported that an estimated 500 people had lost their lives in the last five months (https://borkena.com/2021/01/14/) Ethiopian rights group says at least 500 people killed and over 10,0000 were displaced. More than 4,400 houses have been burned in three woredas: 4,169 in Bullen, 184 in Wombera and 76 in Dibate. Some IDPs are sheltered in public spaces, including schools and meeting halls, while others have set up temporary make-shift shelters, staying with relatives or forced to sleep in the open air. Given the ongoing fighting between Government security forces and UAGs, along with continuing attacks on civilians by UAGs, additional displacements are expected in surrounding towns and woredas.

While humanitarian access is constrained by insecurity, support is being provided through the government using military escorts and some NGO partners working in the zone. Some NGOs are negotiating for independent access to the affected population. Humanitarian needs will likely increase in the absence of an improved security situation. Significant gaps remain in non-food assistance, in particular safe water supply, shelter/nonfood items (NFI) and sexual and gender-based violence support.

BGR has experienced conflict and displacement in the recent past, with the inter-communal violence between the Gumuz and Oromo communities in September 2017 displacing nearly 75,000 people in Asosa and Kamashi Zones, as well as in neighbouring East and West Wellega zones in Oromia Region, according to BGR Disaster Risk Management Commission (DRMC). While some IDPs have returned to their places of origin in BGR, most, approximately 60,000 people, opted to remain in Oromia’s East and West Wellega zones, according to zonal DRMC.

Similarly, the inter-communal violence between the Amhara and Gumuz communities in September 2018 displaced over 21,000 people to Awi Zone in Amhara Region, while others were displaced internally within Metekel Zone. In May 2020, Amhara and BGR Governments launched a return plan, returning over 28,000 IDPs to Metekel Zone. The returnees received assistance from Government and humanitarian partners, with some interruptions due to the tense security situation. Their livelihood had barely stabilized when UAGs started operating in the area in the past months.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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