(Source: UNOCHA, last updated 19 February 2021) –
Despite some progress, the humanitarian response remains drastically inadequate compared to the sheer magnitude of needs across the region.
- Extremely concerning reports of attacks against civilians, including rape and other forms of gender-based violence, continue to surface more than 100 days into the conflict.
- Recent assessments in sites for displaced people in Mekelle, Shire & Adigrat highlight a dire situation while more people move to urban areas in search of assistance.
- Reports of fighting increased in the past week, and partners continue to note that the presence of various armed actors hinders their response.
- Some clusters, including shelter, health, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), education and protection, require urgent funding to scale up the response.
With reports of clashes and pockets of fighting significantly increasing, people in Tigray are facing a further deterioration of the humanitarian situation across the region. Protests in Mekelle on 9 and 10 February reportedly resulted in at least one civilian death, according to aid workers on the ground. Demonstrations have reportedly spread to other towns in the following days, including Adigrat, Adwa, Axum and Shire.
Despite some improvements in the response, particularly in the accessible areas along and near the main road from Alamata to Shire, ongoing insecurity, bureaucratic obstacles and the presence of various armed actors are seriously hampering humanitarians’ ability to deliver assistance in rural areas. Several parts of Central, North-Western, Eastern and Southern Tigray are still unreached by humanitarians, and people who fled to these areas have not received food or other vital assistance since the beginning of the conflict in early November. Access to rural areas remains hindered and insecurity in Southern and South-Eastern Tigray is limiting access to areas that were previously reachable.
Extremely concerning reports of atrocities against civilians have emerged in the past weeks. Humanitarians continue to receive disturbing reports of crimes, such as killing, looting, and sexual violence which has also affected aid workers who have been in the region during the three and half months of fighting. At least 108 instances of rape have been reported to health facilities in Mekelle, Adigrat, Wukro and Ayder, according to the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission. As rapes are usually underreported due to stigma and fear of retaliation, the actual number of cases likely to be significantly higher. Similarly, the Ethiopian Minister of Women, Children and Youth, Filsan Abudhalli Ahmed, published a series of tweets, saying that rape has conclusively taken place. These recent findings add weight to distressing incidences that have been noted by the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pramila Patten, including reports of individuals forced to rape members of their own family.
Raising further alarm, the Bureau of Labour and Social Affairs (BoLSA)-led assessment to centres hosting displaced people in Mekelle highlighted risks of gender-based violence (GBV) related to inadequate sleeping arrangements and broken windows and doors. Similar protection risks were stressed by the Emergency Shelter/Non-Food Items (ES/NFI) Cluster that conducted assessments in displacement sites in Adigrat and Shire. Inadequate and unsafe living conditions in these collective centres are particularly concerning, given that more people are reportedly moving to urban areas in search of assistance.
Although more than 71 per cent of the funding requested early in the conflict has been received, some critical sectors including WASH, health, shelter, education and protection remain underfunded. The rapidly increasing needs will require more resources, especially now that access has started to improve. WFP, for example, informed that more than US$107 million will be required to provide food assistance to 1 million people for the next six months, as well as blanket supplementary intervention for 875,000 children and pregnant and lactating mothers. This is well above the initial US$25 million requested by the Food Security cluster.
The Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, joined a virtual visit to Mekelle on 19 February, during which he could assess the impact of the conflict on the humanitarian situation in Tigray through the personal experiences and observations of aid workers on the ground.
Separately, a delegation of the Humanitarian and Resilience Donor Group, including members from ECHO, Sweden, Belgium and Switzerland, visited Mekelle from 9 to 11 February and met with the Interim Administration and humanitarian partners. The team also visited two sites for people who have been displaced from Central and Western Tigray. Also during the week, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Regional Director, Ahunna Eziakonwa, visited Mekelle and held meetings with the interim Regional President, Area Security Management Team and the Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator.