• Since the beginning of its response to the Tigray crisis, UNICEF has delivered 655 metric tons of multi-sectoral supplies to eight partners (including Regional Bureaus) in six locations (Mekelle, Mai Tsebri, Shire, and Abdurafi in Tigray as well as Semera in Afar and Bahirdar in Amhara) with a total value US$1,541,330. More supplies are on the way as the access for cargo has become smoother and the partners (both Government and nongovernmental) are gearing up their readiness for distribution.
• In collaboration with our partners, a total of 137,107 vulnerable groups including Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), refugees and host communities have received access to water supplies and services in Tigray. 5,459 women and adolescent girls have so far received dignity kits, both in Tigray and Amhara regions. 127 health and nutrition workers have been trained in the treatment of severe malnutrition in Afar. In bordering woredas with Tigray, UNICEF together with its partners has screened a total of 464,479 under-five (U5) children and provided lifesaving treatment to 2,776 children suffering from severe wasting, including 223 facing life-threatening associated conditions. UNICEF has also counselled 181,119 mothers on recommended infant and young child feeding (IYCF) practices and has delivered vitamin A to 191,899 children U5 and iron folate to 15,400 mothers.
• Alongside local government authorities form the interim administration in Tigray, UNICEF team in Mekkele undertook missions into Wokru and Adigrat. During the missions the existing humanitarian needs were observed and action plans to support services are being developed. UNICEF had already delivered both to Worku and Adigrat hospitals, health and nutrition supplies such as Emergency Drug Kits (EDKs), Inter-Agency Emergency Health Kits (IAEKs), hand sanitizers, masks, and nutrition supplies including F100, F75, high energy biscuits (HEBs), Ready to Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) and Vitamin A. Some beneficiaries were receiving nutritional supplement services during the visit to Adigrat hospital, while the supplies sent to Wokru hospital had already been offloaded in its warehouse.
• Recent inter-agency assessments to Tigray, Amhara and Afar between December 2020 and January 2021 report that child protection concerns in the affected regions abound, including sexual and gender-based violence (GBV), physical violence, abductions, unaccompanied and separated children (UASC), risk of child recruitment and exploitation of children for different purposes, risks of arrests and arbitrary detention, landmines and unexploded ordinance related risks including two children reportedly having been killed due to landmines. Child marriage was reported by females as a significant protection concern among those who fled Tigray into Afar. As the conflict affected individuals and families have been exposed to traumatic events and emotional distress related to the conflict and displacement, mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) needs have been reported amongst all age groups.
Situation Overview and Humanitarian Needs
In the interim Government all 16 regional bureau heads positions have been filled. Timely response by regional entities remains however challenging, due to lack of staff, vehicles and limited operational budget, as well as the ongoing security incidents. The Federal Government has provided funding to the interim Government amounting to 8 Billion ETB (approximately US$204,645,451). A positive point is that the ten clusters have been activated and the process for obtaining cargo request approval has been streamlined and is now considerably more effective.
Yet, active hostilities continue to be reported in several areas notably Western, North-Western, Central, East and SouthEast Tigray zones. Insecurity and insufficient capacity on the ground in terms of staff continue to be among the key challenges facing the UNICEF response.
According to the latest Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) IOM report, displacements from Tigray are ongoing as people are continuing to flee to Amhara and Afar regions. Estimates on the entire IDP caseload across Tigray, Amhara and Afar are being conducted based on new site and displacement tracking assessments. In Mekelle city alone, according to internal UNICEF reports, 5,551 IDPs are located mostly in six schools, one church and one rehabilitation centre. Wherever the Bureau of Labour and Social Affairs (BOLSA) is operational, reports have been received about the additional caseload of IDPs including in Adigrat (5,000), Shire (52,000) and Axum (5,000).
The centrality of protection of civilians including children has been highlighted by the recent inter-agency assessments to Tigray, Amhara and Afar which were undertaken between December 2020 and January 2021, while noting access challenges and ethical risks, including in collecting and verifying such information. In addition to the key child protection concerns highlighted above, the refugee population in the camps in particular, which was accessed in early January, is also facing protection needs, as most respondents conveyed, they did not feel safe and noted the lack of operational protection services in the camps. This gap also affects sexual and GBV prevention and response services. Without such services, it is likely there is underreporting of cases. UASC were a specific protection focus due to the specific vulnerabilities such children face and the large number who arrive annually.
Access to health services is not the same across the different regions of Tigray, and while the Government efforts are leading to restoration of services in the major cities, significant services are provided by a number of NGO partners that are running mobile clinics and fixed health facilities. Assessments reports from partners confirmed that around 14 hospitals are empty and confirmed to have been looted out of about 40 found across the region. The condition of most of the health centres still needs to be assessed. Vaccinations have stopped and cold chain has been disrupted due to power interruption for long days, hence causing loss of vaccines across the region. There is a significant need for mobile health clinics to restore vaccination services and undertake consultations, especially in rural areas. Severe shortage of ambulances has also been reported. There are only 30 functional ambulances compared to the 280 which used to function in the region, now they are either damaged or looted. In addition, the ones functioning is under limited capacity due to the curfew thus making access to safe delivery limited. Access to safe delivery is minimal/limited, since there is limited access to health facilities and the number of home deliveries is higher and the Regional Health Bureau (RHB) has reported maternal deaths due to this at the cluster meetings. In addition to the challenges posed by lack of ambulances, the second reason that is compromising safe maternal deliveries is staffing: due to security and some of them not being paid salaries, the manpower supporting the safe delivery is very limited. Adigudom and Wukro health personnel get emergency food for professionals to resume their job.
While some health centres may have been accesses in the main cities, there are still difficulties in reaching many other health facilities/woreda health offices in the countryside where a large portion of the population is found. The main challenges to do the health facilities functionality assessments include mobility difficulties outside Mekelle city and the associated fluid security situation. UNICEF is working closely with the RHB and WHO to finalize the assessments to inform its form of support to Government and programming priorities.
Damages to WASH facilities in Tigray have been identified by the Regional Water Bureau (RWB). Based on the assessment conducted and estimated in hard-to-reach areas, around 2 Billion ETB (US$ 51 million) is required to fix the damages and resume functionality of WASH facilities, including both water and sanitation. On the other hand, in terms of education, there are 1,400 elementary schools in Tigray. A large majority of public schools in Mekelle suffered damage from fighting and looting. Further needs assessments need to be undertaken by the Regional Education Bureau (REB) and by the UNICEF-co-led Education cluster to know the magnitude of the needs, however thousands of IDPs are reportedly also occupying schools as shelters. Regarding the re-opening of schools, plans being worked on for in Mekelle town (dates are not yet confirmed) and in the seven woredas around Mekelle. General challenges of re-opening schools include COVID-19 and the need to re supply protective equipment, security, lack of materials in the case of looted facilities, need to rehabilitate damaged schools, and limited number of teachers2 due to insecurity, displacement and population movement.
Based on a small-scale assessment by the Ministry of Education (MoE) of five locations of Hadinet Unity, Quiha, Semien, Kedamay Weyane and Ayder sub-cities and nine schools in these locations, all have been found to are either partially or totally damaged. Schools where physical infrastructure was not damaged, have suffered extensive looting. Although this assessment is not exhaustive it is still indicative of what the situation could be in several other locations.
The Tigray crisis had also an impact on the Afar region. Some health facilities in the border areas with Tigray are not functional due to a lack of medical supplies, staffing, and power. Emergency referrals (including maternal delivery) are not happening due to lack of telecom network and fuel shortage for ambulances. There was an interruption in emergency food aid provision, and the absence of functioning markets brought additional challenges to the pre-existing insufficient/low nutrition status. Water supplies are interrupted due to a lack of fuel to pump water from shallow wells.
Communities in the bordering host communities and IDPs are using unsafe water sources such as ponds according to the inter-agency assessment conducted in the region’s conflict affected areas. There is also a high risk of GBV and insecurity for girls who have to walk a long distance to fetch water and collect firewood. Most schools are closed/ not functional, in host communities of bordering woredas, especially in last kebeles adjacent to the Tigray kebeles. There is a substantive reduction in children's attendance at schools. In Yallo, the attendance rate dropped to 0-25 per cent, in Aba’ala to 51 per cent – 75 per cent and in Eribite to 76 per cent. Last year the average dropout was 19.3 per cent (21.1 per cent girls).
In the face of a looming and deepening humanitarian crisis, UN agencies are continuing to call for unimpeded and sustained humanitarian access: a statement released on 27 January 2021 by UNICEF Executive Director reiterates such access call and highlights the need to prioritize the restoration of essential services to conflict-affected population, while UNHCR has echoed a similar concern according to media reports.