Tigray: Only half the needy receiving aid – even then once or twice in four months

ETHIOPIA – TIGRAY REGION HUMANITARIAN UPDATE

Situation ReportLast updated: 

Source: UN OCHA

HIGHLIGHTS

  • The access situation in Tigray is fluid and constantly changing. Despite recent improvements in access, active conflict in various areas this week restricted humanitarian response.
  • In addition to insecurity, humanitarian partners continue to flag challenges with capacity and resources to be able to scale up to the level needed to respond across Tigray.
  • Security permitting, humanitarian partners with the capacity and resources to expand into rural areas are looking at how to reach areas where no assistance has yet been provided.
  • The Government of Ethiopia is working to reach six Woredas that have not received any food assistance, targeting approximately 300,000 people.
  • Women and girls caught in the conflict continue to fall victims of sexual violence and abuse.

Situation Overview

The access situation in Tigray is highly fluid and constantly changing. While there had been improvement in access over the past weeks, this week witnessed widespread insecurity constraining humanitarian partners’ ability to move. Active hostilities have been reported in North-Western, Central, Eastern, South-Eastern and Southern Zones. The Alamata-Mekelle-Adigrat-Shire remains partially accessible. There have been sporadic incidents that have impacted this road in recent weeks, but for only short periods of time. Heavy fighting seems to have largely subsided in areas bordering Eritrea in Eastern and the northern Woredas of North-Western and Central Zones.  In Central Zone, fighting has been moving southwards, which has allowed some partners to move into areas that were previously inaccessible such as Abi Adi and scale up operations. There is however limited business activity and tensions remain high.  There has also been an improvement in access to Hagere Selam and surrounding areas. One partner was able to reach Kola Temben and Keyhe Tekli, while other areas in Central Zone remain inaccessible. Zana, which was partially accessible, is no longer accessible due to high levels of insecurity.

The active conflict, including attacks by unidentified armed groups on clearly marked aid agency vehicles pose a significant security challenge to the ongoing humanitarian operations. The Humanitarian INGOs forum (HINGOs) has, in a statement on 1 April, called on all parties to the conflict to ensure protection of all humanitarian aid workers and civilians to enable assistance to reach all people in need. The UN’s safety and security wing, OCHA and the Logistics Cluster in Mekelle are drafting an Operational Plan. The plan’s overall objective is to mitigate the impact of future disruptions on life-saving humanitarian operations through the provision of consolidated information to inform the best decision making. The plan will highlight key hotspots, the presence of partners (including national NGOs) in Tigray, with recommendations on how to sustain operations during the current crises.

In addition to insecurity, humanitarian partners continue to flag challenges with capacity and resources to be able to scale up to the level needed to respond across Tigray. Many areas across Tigray have only received food assistance, and this assistance has not reached the entire population (assistance figures are reportedly around 50-60 per cent of the total population, and assistance has generally been delivered once, or in some cases twice, during a period of four months. There is a need to ensure monitoring mechanism are instituted and efficiently enable inclusive access based on needs. During a joint mission to Tigray (22 to 26 March), OCHA and ECHO met with humanitarian partners in Mekelle and Shire and with the Shire Zonal Administrator. The team also visited four IDP sites in Mekelle, Axum and Shire. The mission noted that the overall IDP response in terms of food, shelter, protection and WASH remains largely inadequate.

In Western Tigray, tens of thousands of people continue to flee to the rest of the region, crossing the Tekeze River and arriving in Sheraro, Shire, Adwa, Axum, and possibly other locations. People have been found hiding in the bush, waiting to cross, but unable to move further. There are reports of many abandoned villages in Western Tigray. For the population remaining in the West, almost no services are available. There is a large IDP population that have arrived in Sheraro from Western Tigray, with the majority lacking resources to continue the journey to Shire by bus. There are only a few humanitarian actors operating in Sheraro and there is reportedly an urgent need to scale up WASH, health, NFI and food response. The Reporter newspaper, citing the NRC Secretary General, Jan Egeland, informed that the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) warned that emaciated children and pregnant women are among the at least 37,000 IDPs arriving into Sheraro.

Given the highly fluid displacement situation and access constraints, the overall number of people uprooted by the conflict in Tigray is not conclusively known yet, but according to the Regional Bureau of Labor and Social Affairs (BOLSA), there are an estimated 1.7 million displaced people across the region (as of 27 March).

Gross violations and abuses against civilians, including sexual violence, continue to be reported. The level of violence and the age of many victims calls for a robust mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) response, in addition to immediate access to medical services.

Security permitting, humanitarian partners that have the capacity and the resources to expand into more rural areas are looking into ways to expand, especially in areas where no assistance has yet been provided. Meanwhile, the Government of Ethiopia is working to reach six Woredas (Chila, Rama, Ahsea, Egela, Adet and Hahayle) that have not received any food assistance (approximately 300,000 people) since the beginning of the conflict, in Central Zone. Most of the health facilities in these Woredas have been looted and/or destroyed. They lack access to medical professionals, medical supplies and to medicines. The communities in these Woredas also need of WASH, NFIs, food and nutrition assistance.

To further increase humanitarian capacity to respond, the Government must bolster security to protect public structures and increase the confidence of public servants to return to work (including but not limited to salary payments), as well as administration capacity, particularly at the Zone, Woreda and Kebele levels. Deployment of trained and neutral police forces to protect essential services in crucial.  The restoration of the banking, electricity, basic communications and water services will alleviate suffering of displaced people and of vulnerable groups including women, children, people with disabilities and older people, and enable the scale up of response operations.

Humanitarian Preparedness and Response

Humanitarian presence is gradually increasing with improved access procedures in the Tigray Region. There are currently [as of 6 April 2021] 186 UN staff supporting the humanitarian response in the region (33 international and 116 national staff in Mekelle and 3 international and 34 national staff in Shire), and over 1,500 more aid workers with international and national NGOs. Humanitarian organizations continue to deploy additional staff to support the scale up of operations and ensure protection-by-presence amid reports of ongoing violence against civilians. There are 51 partners (Government, UN, NGO) operating across the region.

Food insecurity has worsened in the region, especially since the conflict erupted during the harvest season. Further deterioration is expected should the conflict continue and disrupt the next planting season. Limited food assistance, poor beneficiary targeting and lack of/restricted access to banking services are contributing to the food insecurity.

In a press statement, WFP informed it has begun providing emergency food assistance to vulnerable people in Tigray and has appealed for US$170 million to meet critical food and nutrition needs over the next six months. Partners have however raised concern about the adequacy of assistance as many areas across Tigray have only received food assistance, and this assistance has not reached the entire population (assistance figures are reportedly 50-60 per cent of the total population), and assistance has generally been delivered once, or in some cases twice, during a period of four months.

Shelter Cluster partners have reported logistical and supply capacity constraints, with an estimated response gap of about 64 per cent. While the Shire water supply system has been repaired, the current WASH response relies on water trucking and the water quality water is reportedly not safe. The INGO MSF and partners have expressed concerns the risk of disease outbreaks, in view of the upcoming rainy season. Furthermore, current vaccine distributions cannot accommodate the high number of new arrivals in Shire hence the need to urgently scale up health activities.

Nutrition Cluster partners are yet to launch mass-scale screening activities, while protection partners are advocating for increased budgets and resources to expand their capacity from the nine currently covered sites to all IDP sites.

In Western Zone, one round of food was distributed by the Amhara Regional Government. However, the distribution was reported by the local and zonal officials and beneficiaries to be inadequate, inconsistent and the food basket incomplete. Many people reportedly did not receive food. Since October 2020, water supply systems are not functioning due to power outage and unavailability of fuel. Residents and IDPs use water from unprotected sources for drinking and other purposes. So far, there is no WASH response in the visited areas, the only response mentioned was a one-time supply of 32,000 liters of fuel by CARE Ethiopia to Maykadra and limited WASH NFI supply with support from the Regional Water Bureau and UNICEF. Girls and women walk for nearly 3 hours round trip in search of water amidst security and potential GBV risks.

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