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Ethiopia - Tigray Region Humanitarian Update Situation Report, 13 March 2021

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HIGHLIGHTS

  • The humanitarian situation in Tigray remains extremely concerning, with conflict continuing to drive displacements of people and reports of some villages completely emptied.
  • Following the transition to a flexible notification system for access, several organizations have deployed international staff to Tigray to support the scale up of the response.
  • Delivery of assistance is stepping up, with humanitarian partners reaching 0.9 million people with complete food baskets, almost 0.7 million with water, and 136,000 with shelter.
  • Despite some progress in accessible areas, many people remain in hard-to-reach areas due to insecurity, logistical and administrative hurdles, where assistance is needed.
  • Over the past week, a large influx of people has reached Shire from Western Tigray amid reports of grave human rights abuses. Those newly displaced arrived in critical conditions.

SITUATION OVERVIEW

As heavy fighting continues to restrict humanitarian operations across parts of Tigray, people are facing an extremely dire humanitarian situation. Clashes continue to be reported in Central, Eastern, North Western, South Eastern and Southern Zones, where social services have reportedly collapsed, according to partners on the ground. A vast majority of health centres have been vandalized, destroyed or burned, and many health personnel have not been paid and are reportedly being threatened by armed actors, further delaying their return to work. Ongoing looting of health facilities, including in Southern Tigray, is hindering the health response, as partners are discouraged from providing medical supplies. People with chronic diseases and pregnant women are particularly affected, as they are unable to access emergency medical services during curfew hours, causing preventable deaths and delivery complications. Universities across Tigray have reportedly been extensively looted, while at least two have been destroyed by fire or bombs.

Basic services, including communications, electricity and banking, remain disrupted across much of Tigray. Approximately 4.5 million people living in rural areas and major towns in North Western Zone have had no power or communications for more than four months. Lack of communications in most areas are adding significant challenges to the delivery and monitoring of life-saving assistance.

In Western Tigray, partners report that tens of thousands of people have been displaced from the area allegedly on ethnic grounds. Since November 2020, the Western Tigray Zone has been under de facto control of Amhara regional authorities, during which there have been reports of ethnically motivated violence and forced displacement. Since February, thousands of residents in Western Tigray have fled the Zone amid reports of extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detentions, and disappearances of people, particularly young men. As of 8 March, more than 45,000 people have been registered in Shire, with an influx of about 1,500 people every day. The newly displaced, who arrive in dire conditions, have reported that some people remain stranded on the way due to lack of transportation from Tekeze River to Shire and have very limited humanitarian assistance. In Shire, aid workers have started delivering some food, shelter, wash and health assistance, and stressed the very urgent need to provide additional relief to the new arrivals, particularly shelter and non-food items. Humanitarian access and response in Western Zone is currently only possible through Amhara Region.

Aid workers continue to receive reports of attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure in Central, North Western and South Eastern zones, including house-to-house searches accompanied by indiscriminate, extrajudicial killings. Gender-based violence remains widespread, according to the latest Emergency Coordination Centre meeting on 5 March, and humanitarian actors are still unable to measure the full extent of the situation, particularly in rural areas due to limited access. With government social protection, security and judicial systems not functioning, survivors of human rights abuses are receiving inadequate assistance. International actors, including the World Bank, continue to underscore the importance of safeguarding the rights of all people in Ethiopia. Multiple human rights organizations published, on 9 March, a joint open letter to H.E. Ms. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Permanent Representative of the US to the UN in New York, calling for a prioritization of the crisis in Tigray at the UN Security Council, including mobilizing an appropriate diplomatic response.

With many areas of Tigray not having received vital assistance since the conflict started four months ago, the rising needs have vastly outstripped the preliminary response plan that was developed by the humanitarian community in the first weeks of the conflict. Now, partners are increasingly able to access hundreds of thousands of people in Tigray who are in desperate need, and to move more supplies and personnel into the region. The 2021 Humanitarian Needs Overview launched by the humanitarian community on 5 March estimates that about 4.5 million people are currently in need of humanitarian assistance in Tigray, of whom 3.5 million people are in accessible and partially accessible areas. The humanitarian community will continue to update this figure as more assessments become possible in the Region.

HIGH-LEVEL VISITS

About 40 diplomats, including the United States Ambassador to Ethiopia and members of the European Union, visited Mekelle on 10 March. Their visit follows the recent announcement by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) on the deployment of a Disaster Assistance Response Team to respond to growing humanitarian needs in the Region.

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