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Ethiopia - Tigray Region Humanitarian Update Situation Report, 25 January 2021

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Situation Report
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HIGHLIGHTS

  • The security in Tigray remains unstable and unpredictable. The situation is particularly volatile in rural areas where large numbers of people are believed to have fled.

  • The Logistics Cluster reached Shire, for the first time since the conflict started, with 40 metric tons of food items.

  • Partners on the ground are receiving reports indicating rising hunger, as the conflict exacerbated the lean season and desert locust infestation.

  • Due to the conflict, farmers have missed the harvest season and with regional trade blocked, the local markets have or are nearing collapsing.

  • There is an alarming increase in reports of sexual violations and abuses in Tigray Region, including rape cases.

SITUATION OVERVIEW

The security situation in Tigray Region remains unstable and unpredictable. Fighting continues to be reported mainly in Central, Eastern, North Western, South and South Eastern parts of the region. The situation is particularly volatile in rural areas where large numbers of people are believed to have fled. According to field reports, movements outside main roads are highly insecure. Incidents of ambushes and hit-and-run attacks also abound, including on humanitarian partners’ vehicles. Humanitarian assets have also been forecefully misappropriated, including the vandalization of two refugee camps in North Western Tigray.

The access constraints due to the ongoing insecurity continue to challenge the urgent scale-up of humanitarian assistance and prevent the population from accessing life-saving support. Although movements of cargo carrying humanitarian commodities have been increasingly allowed to move into the Region, most of the critical staff that are needed to scale up the response and distribute and monitor its distribution have not been able to access the Region. Despite the progress in granting clearance for cargo movements, critical humanitarian staff deployment submitted to the federal Government have not been granted and are pending clearance for several weeks. At least 74 technical staff are awaiting Government clearance to deploy to Tigray. The overall lengthy cargo/personnel movement clearance process is another impediment, which the Government and partners are closely working to address and ensure the implementation of the agreed clearance timeline of 48 hours.

In addition to hampered physical access into many parts of Tigray, mobile network communications remain cut-off in most parts of the Region, affecting response operations and access to vital information, including on COVID-19. Electricity, banking, telephone and public transportation services are slowly being restored but are highly limited and remain accessible only in major towns. On 19 January, electricity was restored in Adigrat, Adwa and Aksum Towns, while phone services were restored in Adigrat. Electricity, telephone, banks (but with a very low money withdrawal cap) have already been restored in south and western Zones and Mekelle Town. Internet connection remains switched off, severely affecting operations of partners. Public transport is functioning along the Alamata-Shire-Adigrat road.

Overall, the humanitarian situation remains extremely concerning with each passing day without or with limited access to food, nutrition suplements, healthcare and other basic services and commodities. Partners on the ground are receiving reports indicating rising hunger, as the conflict exacerbated an already fragile context marked by COVID-19, desert locust and the ongoing lean season. Farmers have missed the harvest season and, with no trade in and out of the region, the markets have or are nearing full collapse. Accordingly, malnutrition is likely to have increased significantly.

According to the Tigray Water Resource Management Bureau, the Gereb Geba clean water dam project is not operational making it difficult to provide clean water in the Region. The lack of WASH service is increasingly concerning amidst reports of water-borne diseases and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although still unconfirmed, reports of a cholera outreak began to emerge from Adwa Town, Central Zone. The Regional Health Bureau has dispatched a team to the area to assess the situation. Meanwhile, the health system has nearly fully collapsed. An undetermined number of health centres have been vandalized and unpaid health workers have left their posts. WHO estimates that only 22 per cent of health facilities are functional. Some 78 per cent of the hospitals in the Region are not accessible.

Of particular concern in recent days are the alarming increase in reports of sexual violence and abuses in Tigray Region, including rape cases. Most of the victims claim that the attack was perpetrated by “men in uniform”, including sometimes in exchange for basic commodities. Reports of forced displacement and forced return/refoulement were also received. Verification of these allegations, and the gaging of the full scale of the problem is significantly hampered by the restricted access and the collapse of the health system. The lack of basic medical supplies has so far limited or made impossible to provision of health and post-trauma interventions to the victims. In addition to protection and SGBV services, food and other basic humanitarian assistance, there is a critical need to scale up pshychological support to especially children who have suffered trauma.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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