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Ethiopia - Tigray Region Humanitarian Update Situation Report, 19 February 2021

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Situation Report
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HIGHLIGHTS

  • The humanitarian situation in Tigray Region remains critical, with reports of intensified fighting across the Region, particularly in the Central Zone.

  • Incidents of house searches, looting, killings and gender-based violence (GBV) against civilians continue to be reported.

  • Despite large amounts of food aid reportedly dispatched across Tigray, better monitoring is needed to ensure that aid is reaching those most in need.

  • Unimpeded access remains critical to ensure principled humanitarian action in all parts of Tigray.

  • Additional resources are urgently required to ensure that protection activities and other life-saving services can scale up.

BACKGROUND

SITUATION OVERVIEW

The humanitarian situation in Tigray Region continues to deteriorate, with intensified fighting reported across the Region, particularly in Central Zone. Aid workers on the ground have reported hearing gunshots from the main cities, including in Mekelle and Shire. Residents and aid workers on the ground continue reporting incidents of house searches and indiscriminate looting, including of household items, farming equipment, ambulances and office vehicles, allegedly by various armed actors. This is likely to have a serious impact on food security in the coming period as people's livelihoods are disrupted. Protection actors continue to raise concerns over alarming levels of violence against civilians perpetuated by armed actors. Incidents of killings and gender-based violence (GBV) continue to be reported, mainly among women and children. Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde has confirmed that several survivors of sexual violence are being housed in a shelter in Mekelle, while aid workers are reporting a high demand for emergency contraception and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP kits), a sign that many more incidences could be underreported. Mobile health and nutrition teams (MHNTs) across the Region continue to provide clinical management of rape survivors. Besides GBV, a rights group has documented a series of serious violations against civilians in Axum committed in November 2020, including indiscriminate shelling and mass executions of civilians, findings that the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission says should be taken very seriously. More recently, following the protests in Mekelle on 9 and 10 February, several people were allegedly killed by security forces in Adigrat, Axum, Mekelle and Wukro, according to aid workers on the ground, raising continued concerns for protection of civilians. Despite large amounts of food aid reportedly dispatched across Tigray, it is unclear how much aid is reaching their intended beneficiaries, according to the latest Emergency Coordination Centre meeting on 19 February. Thousands of people have not received vital assistance for almost four months since the conflict broke out in early November 2020. Humanitarians are putting in place appropriate systems to strengthen the targeting of food beneficiaries and the monitoring of food distributions, although continued disruptions to electricity and communications make such efforts extremely challenging. Electricity was switched off across the entire Region from 17 to 27 February, and phone communications were shut down from 16 to 27 February in several towns, including Axum, Adwa and Shire, where it had previously resumed. Although 71 per cent of the funding requested earlier has been received, the rising needs have vastly outstripped the requirements estimated in the preliminary response plan that was developed by the humanitarian community in the first weeks of the conflict. Several critical clusters, including Shelter, Health, Protection and Education, report that the resources received are inadequate for the dire needs, even in areas that are currently accessible. Given the volatile security situation and evolving access opportunities, it is critical that clusters are sufficiently equipped with resources to be able to provide life-saving assistance whenever and wherever possible.

High-level visits The UNICEF Emergency Director, Manuel Fontaine, together with the UNICEF Ethiopia Representative, the UNICEF Head of Field Operations and Emergency and a representative from the Swedish Government visited Adigrat and Mekelle from 21 to 23 February.

ANALYSIS

CROSS-BORDER IMPACT

Asof 25 February, at least 61,307 people have arrived in Eastern Sudan since early November 2020 when the conflict broke out, according to UNHCR. While at least 41,181 people have been relocated to Um Rakuba camp and Tunaydbah settlement, over 20,000 people remain by the crossing points near the border. Amid rising border tension between Ethiopia and Sudan, the number of Ethiopians fleeing into Sudan has reduced in the recent weeks.

Reports of increasing militarization on both sides of the border are evidence of increased tensions between the two countries, and this presents a direct risk to the continued protection of civilians and a threat to regional stability. Military build-up has been reported along the Fashaga area with confrontations leaving to death of military personnel on both sides.

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