“Thousands of people have not received vital assistance for almost four months since the conflict broke out in early November 2020”
The humanitarian situation in Tigray Region continues to deteriorate, with intensified fighting reported across the Region, particularly in Central Zone.
Aid workers on the ground have reported hearing gunshots from the main cities, including in Mekelle and Shire. Residents and aid workers on the ground continue reporting incidents of house searches and indiscriminate looting, including of household items, farming equipment, ambulances and office vehicles, allegedly by various armed actors.
This is likely to have a serious impact on food security in the coming period as people’s livelihoods are disrupted. Protection actors continue to raise concerns over alarming levels of violence against civilians perpetuated by armed actors.
Incidents of killings and gender-based violence (GBV) continue to be reported, mainly among women and children. Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde has confirmed that several survivors of sexual violence are being housed in a shelter in Mekelle, while aid workers are reporting a high demand for emergency contraception and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP kits), a sign that many more incidences could be underreported. Mobile health and nutrition teams (MHNTs) across the Region continue to provide clinical management of rape survivors.
Besides GBV, a rights group has documented a series of serious violations against civilians in Axum committed in November 2020, including indiscriminate shelling and mass executions of civilians, findings that the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission says should be taken very seriously. More recently, following the protests in Mekelle on 9 and 10 February, several people were allegedly killed by security forces in Adigrat, Axum, Mekelle and Wukro, according to aid workers on the ground, raising continued concerns for protection of civilians.
Aid supplies “extremely challenging”
Despite large amounts of food aid reportedly dispatched across Tigray, it is unclear how much aid is reaching their intended beneficiaries, according to the latest Emergency Coordination Centre meeting on 19 February. Thousands of people have not received vital assistance for almost four months since the conflict broke out in early November 2020. Humanitarians are putting in place appropriate systems to strengthen the targeting of food beneficiaries and the monitoring of food distributions, although continued disruptions to electricity and communications make such efforts extremely challenging.
Electricity was switched off across the entire Region from 17 to 27 February, and phone communications were shut down from 16 to 27 February in several towns, including Axum, Adwa and Shire, where it had previously resumed. Although 71 per cent of the funding requested earlier has been received, the rising needs have vastly outstripped the requirements estimated in the preliminary response plan that was developed by the humanitarian community in the first weeks of the conflict.
Several critical clusters, including Shelter, Health, Protection and Education, report that the resources received are inadequate for the dire needs, even in areas that are currently accessible.
Given the volatile security situation and evolving access opportunities, it is critical that clusters are sufficiently equipped with resources to be able to provide life-saving assistance whenever and wherever possible.