On 4 November 2020, military confrontations between federal and regional forces in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, which borders both Sudan and Eritrea, led the Government to declare a State of Emergency. Since then, and despite the announcement of an official end to military operations at the end of November, Ethiopia’s Tigray region has continued to be affected by armed clashes and insecurity, having a serious impact on access and the provision of humanitarian assistance to refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).
Due to the conflict, UNHCR and partners were forced to relocate most of their staff from the Tigray region. Only a limited number of critical staff remain, in the areas affected by the conflict. With limited access to cash, fuel and food, their operational capacity has been severely hindered. This in turn has led to a drastic halt in the delivery of services to Eritrean refugees.
While the situation in Adi-Harush and Mai Aini refugee camps has been recently accessed, and 25,000 Eritrean refugees sheltered in both camps received a one-month food ration in December, UNHCR and partners have not been able to access Hitsats and Shimelba camps for nearly three months, putting the safety and survival of the refugees at great risk.
The lack of access to food, fuel and other essential supplies has created a complex humanitarian situation with extreme suffering and life-threatening consequences. To find safety and basic means of survival, Eritrean refugees have been fleeing from camps -particularly from Shimelba and Hitsats- to other locations within Tigray and other regions of Ethiopia, as well as to Sudan.
The IDPs in Shire and the adjacent areas have also received very limited assistance as humanitarian actors are not allowed access to many of these areas.
In the meantime, UNHCR has been advocating with the Ethiopian federal authorities for urgent, full and unimpeded humanitarian access to Eritrean refugees, who are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance and services.
The number of newly internally displaced persons in Tigray, as well as well as those who have moved to Afar and Amhara regions of Ethiopia, grew steadily since the start of the conflict. OCHA and the Clusters indicate initial estimates for humanitarian planning figures at 413,849 newly internally displaced people, mainly concentrated in Northern Woredas of Western Tigray (386,314), together with 23,681 in Afar and 3,854 in Amhara region. At the same time, to date 59,226 individuals have sought safety in Eastern Sudan from Ethiopia.