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Ethiopia: Northern Ethiopia Access Snapshot (September 2021)

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The humanitarian situation in Tigray, Amhara and Afar continued to deteriorate in September due to ongoing conflict, bureaucratic obstacles and delays causing shortages of relief supplies, cash and fuel. Partners had restricted access to people in need to conflict-affected areas as well as to other areas given resource limitations, which impacted the number of access incidents reported.

In Tigray, the population’s access to essential services continued to deteriorate due to the lack of electricity, fuel, communications, banking services. The prizes of basic commodities raised sharply, for instance, one quintal of teff increased from 3,000 to 5,700 ETB, cooking oil from 300 to 1,500 ETB. Relief organizations reduced and/or suspended life-saving operations due shortages of fuel, cash, and relief supplies. In September, medicines were not allowed into Tigray and health facilities run on human capacity only. Partners are struggling to ensure the duty of care of aid workers on the ground.

In Amhara, active fighting between Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF)/Amhara Special Forces and Tigray Forces (TF) continued in parts of North and South Wello, Wag Hamra, and North Gondar, blocking access and assistance to thousands of people in affected areas. Reports of continued mobilization of armed forces by all parties to the conflict continued throughout September. Limited access to conflict affected areas prevented partners from verifying reports of vandalization of public services. Several children reportedly died in incidents with Unexploded Ordinances (UXO) and Explosives Remnants of War (ERW) in Worebabu woreda, South Wello.

The situation in the border with Eritrea remained unchanged, with Eritrean National Defense Forces (ErDF) stationed along the border and present in some woredas of Eastern Tigray, with reports of denials to the population’s freedom of movement and access to aid. Population displacements continued from border areas to Shire, Sheraro, and Adigrat.
In Afar, partners’ access to people in need improved during September after ENDF and Afar Special Forces regained control of Fanti (Zone 4) prompting the return of thousands of internally displaced people (IDPs). Reportedly, a number of health facilities, schools, and other public infrastructure have been looted and vandalized by Tigray Forces (TF). Essential services, including electricity, banking or telecommunications, remained dysfunctional in Fanti (Zone 4). UXO/ERWs were reported in Gulina and Euwa woredas (Zone 4), causing incidents where children were injured and/or killed.

Sporadic fighting continued in Kilbati (Zone 2) and the area remained hard-to-reach for partners. The security situation along the Semera-Abala-Mekele road (Afar corridor) improved during September, however, some cases of intimidation of staff continued. Partners mobilized more trucks and supplies in September than in July – August, however, these remained insufficient in regards to the needs (OCHA Ethiopia - Tigray operational capacity). The lack of available and willing commercial trucks/drivers hampered the response, with many reluctant to work due to fears of insecurity as well as by the lack of fuel.

In September, Federal Authorities put in place new requirements for aid workers travelling on the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) to Tigray. The new requirements prevented many aid workers from travelling. In addition to limiting the response capacity in Tigray, this also impacted the ability of partners to transport cash to Tigray. The current authorized ceiling of ETB 2 million per agency/flight is proving insufficient to sustain operations. UNHAS was authorized to fly twice a week to Mekelle, exclusively carrying staff working for international organizations, while commercial flights to Afar and Tigray remain suspended.

Unfounded accusations against the aid community in Ethiopia is compromising the security of aid workers, especially in field locations. This impacted in particular national staff - based on their origin and the respective duty station - as well as internationals. Aid workers travelling to Tigray with UNHAS or by road via Afar, continued to experience harassment and excessive searches by security officers, including United Nations personnel.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.