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Ethiopia: Tigray Region Humanitarian Update - Situation Report No. 5 (24 November 2020)

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This report is produced by OCHA Ethiopia and covers the period from 20 to 24 November 2020. The next report will be issued on Friday, 27 November.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • On 22 November, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has issued a 72-hour-ultimatum for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front based in the capital Mekelle to surrender. The Federal government will start implementing the “third phase of the ongoing law enforcement operation” in the region upon the expiry of the ultimatum.

  • The UN and humanitarian organizations continue to be extremely concerned about the safety and welfare of civilians in Tigray region, including more than 500,000 citizens and 200 aid workers currently in Mekelle where fighting is likely to escalate.

  • Shortages of fuel, cash and access to basic services continue to be reported due to insecurity and restrictions on movement. The resultant shortages in food and water amongst others are likely affecting the most vulnerable first and foremost.

  • The UN and humanitarian partners in Ethiopia are ready to scale up humanitarian assistance to people affected by the conflict and are calling for free, safe and unhindered humanitarian access to all affected areas.

  • The number of people fleeing to Sudan has increased to more than 41,000, including 18,000 children, with cases of malnutrition reported among the new arrivals.

SITUATION OVERVIEW

The humanitarian situation in Tigray region remains highly tense and volatile, with thousands of people reportedly lacking access to assistance since the conflict erupted on November 4th. This crisis comes at a time Ethiopia is grappling with a dire humanitarian situation caused by displacement, desert locust infestation, food insecurity and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Shortage of basic supplies has been reported across in Tigray. More specifically, shortages of fuel and cash are becoming very critical, including for humanitarian organizations in the region impacting humanitarians’ ability to respond to the increasing needs and carry out humanitarian need assessments. According to UNHCR for example, food supplies for the camps will run out in one week and water will cease imminently if humanitarians have no access to fuel for the water pumps.

Most of the 600,000 people in Tigray region who rely on monthly food assistance have not received their November rations, which should have been distributed in the first week of the month. At least 250,000 people that receive direct support cash transfers, and are among the poorest, have not receive their benefits as well. The situation is also dire for the 96,000 Eritrean refugees across the four camps in Tigray region. Without unconditional humanitarian access, there is great concern about the delivery of the most basic services, including water and essential medicines.

The fighting continues to displace people within Tigray as well as into Amhara and Afar regions and across the border into Sudan. Several thousands of people have reportedly arrived in Yalo district (Afar region) from Chercher district, Southern zone (Tigray region). Several more people have also reportedly fled further inland from Yalo district to Gulina district in zone 4 (Afar region) fearing violence following heavy military deployment in Yalo district.

Meanwhile in Amhara, regional authorities reported the return of some 900 IDPs from Woldia district to their place of origin in Raya Kobo district in the North Wollo zone and Alamata district in Tigray region.

There is no market access in 10 districts (woredas) in Afar region along the border with Tigray affecting an estimated 650,017 people in these areas, including 166,383 people who need urgent emergency relief food and other social services. Afar regional authorities are making arrangements with suppliers and local traders for food and other commodities to be transported to the border towns. Partners working in the border areas of Afar and Tigray regions have also halted their humanitarian services for the past two weeks due to insecurity and operational challenges. According to WFP, there is no access to transport food and nutritional supplies from Mekelle, Kombolcha and Adama warehouses. In addition to granting unhindered humanitarian access, humanitarian actors have further called on the authorities to avail fuel and allow access to cash at the border districts.

Following the 72-hour-ultimatum issued by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on 22 November for the TPLF to surrender, the Government’s Spokesman for the State of Emergency Task Force for the conflict stated on 23 November that Mekelle has been encircled and that final preparations were underway to move into the city. The UN and humanitarian partners in Ethiopia are gravely concerned about the safety of civilians in Mekelle, including more than 200 aid workers who remain in the city where fighting is feared will intensify.

The UN and humanitarian actors in affected areas are calling on the parties to the conflict to adhere to their obligations under international humanitarian law, particularly protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure, including health facilities, schools and water systems and humanitarian support. Similarly, the Interreligious Council of Ethiopia and other religious groups have called for an immediate cessation of hostilities, a refrain from inflammatory words and propaganda, and a resolution of the conflict through dialogue. Security for all the humanitarian community also remains critical to ensure delivery of assistance to affected people.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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