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Ethiopia: Tigray Humanitarian Access Snapshot (August 2021)

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The conflict continues unabated in August 2021, with armed hostilities intensifying in Amhara and Afar regions, impacting the ability of aid partners to mobilize assistance to Tigray and surrounding areas in the two neighboring regions. The de facto blockade on the movement of aid supplies has practically halted the humanitarian response, with stocks of food aid and other relief items depleted, and life-saving and protection services stopped.

While there is no fighting reported within Tigray in August, the situation in boundary areas of Afar and Amhara regions remains tense, with ongoing fighting reported throughout the month.* Conflicts extended into North Gondar (Amhara), with fighting reported in Addi Arekay, Debark and Dabat woredas, affecting internally displaced persons (IDPs) already in the area. Areas of Fanti (Zone 4) of Afar, bordering Southern zone of Tigray, remain tense with ongoing clashes reported. Eritrean forces (ErDF) remain present in boundary areas close to the Eritrea border, including in Western, North Western and Central zones of Tigray. ErDF have de facto occupied various woredas in Eastern zone.
The population continues to flee areas with ErDF presence, moving towards Sheraro and Shire (North-Western) and other main towns in Central and Eastern zones.

Amhara’s boundary areas with Tigray in Wag Hamra, North Gondar and North Wello zones remain hard-to-reach for partners due to ongoing fighting. In August, fighting between parties to the conflict spread to South Gondar (Amhara) with large military mobilization in the area. In Afar, armed hostilities continued in Fanti (Zone 4) and Kilbati (Zone 2) throughout the month of August, with unconfirmed reports of mass atrocities committed in Galikoma IDP site in Fanti (Zone 4).

The de facto blockade on the Tigray region has significantly restricted humanitarian operations due to restricted movements of aid supplies, fuel, and cash (OCHA Ethiopia - Tigray operational capacity). Across all sectors, operational capacity has been severely reduced and critical activities suspended. Food stocks ran out on 20 August. Health partners have suspended programs to deliver emergency health kits and vaccinate vulnerable communities against cholera, measles, and polio.
Furthermore, electricity, communications, banking services and commercial air flights remain suspended since the end of June. The situation is impacting over 5 million people in Tigray, including 2 million internally displaced people (1.2 million in IDP sites).

The Afar “humanitarian corridor” (Semera – Abala – Mekelle, Tigray) remains the only available route to move relief supplies into Tigray. However, insecurity and bureaucratic delays are impacting the logistic operation. Medicines, ICT equipment, generators, and office supplies are being denied transit to Tigray. On 19 August, in Dubti woreda of Awsi (Zone 1), a UN relief convoy was attacked and partially looted by unidentified assailants, one aid worker was injured. As of 31 August, a total of 335 trucks and 12 fuel tankers had reached Tigray since mid-July. On 30 August, the Mai Tsebri bridge on the Tekeze river was repaired. However, fighting in North Gondar (Amhara) continues to impede the use of this corridor.

The United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) has been authorized by the Government of Ethiopia to operate ten flights between mid-July and end of August. Aid workers have experienced intensive searches and restrictions to carry cash into Tigray, and no relief cargo has been allowed on the flights. On 18 August, the United Arab Emirates (in cooperation with WFP) sent one aircraft carrying food supplies to Mekele (Tigray).

In August, the aid community learned about an additional nine aid workers (all Ethiopian nationals) killed in Tigray earlier in the year, bringing the total number of aid workers killed to 23. This makes Tigray region one of the most insecure environments for aid workers globally. Reportedly, Tigray Force (TF) elements looted various INGO offices and warehouses in South Gondar (Amhara) during August. Meanwhile, aid workers continue to be detained/arrested, harassed, and intimidated in all areas affected by violence, including the relief convoy drivers travelling the Semera-Mekelle corridor.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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