Analysis: UN expresses readiness to resume humanitarian assistance in Ethiopia’s conflict-hit Tigray region

ADDIS ABABA (EI) – The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN Refugee Agency, said it stands ready to resume its full humanitarian activities in Ethiopia’s Tigray regional state as soon as the situation allows, following an agreement with the Ethiopian government to restore access.

UNHCR’s spokesperson, Babar Baloch, said in a statement issued on Friday that said an agreement was reached recently between the UN in the Ethiopian federal government to facilitate access to aid organizations to provide assistance to civilians affected by the month-long conflict.

The agency did that it’s staff in Shire town in Tigray region together with partners have already distributed water, high energy biscuits, clothes, mattresses, sleeping mats and blankets to an estimated 5,000 internally displaced.

“However, we continue to receive disturbing reports regarding the Eritrean refugee camps in the region, which remain incommunicado,” the statement read, adding “The details of damages and disruptions remain unknown until we are able to reach them and verify the information.”

The UN refugee agency also said its currently discussing with the federal government’s refugee agency on logistics arrangements, and the need to assess the security situation before the resumption of humanitarian activities.

“Fears are that many that Eritrean refugees may have already fled the camp in search of safety,” the agency said.

Meanwhile, inside neighboring Sudan, Ethiopian refugee arrivals continue with the total number have now crossed 47,000, according to the UNHCR.

Refugees also told UNHCR of more people on the move in search of safety, according to the statement. A small number of Eritrean refugees have also arrived from the Tigray region in recent days.

UNHCR, together with the Sudanese authorities, has moved some 11,150 refugees from Hamdayet and Abderafi border points to Um Rakuba camp, 70 kilometres away from the Ethiopian border, it was noted.

Last week, the UNHCR had called on Ethiopian authorities to provide “urgent” access to reach Eritrean refugees in Northern Ethiopia.

“Concerns are growing by the hour,” a UNHCR statement issued on Dec. 1 quoted Baloch as saying.

“The camps will have now run out of food supplies — making hunger and malnutrition a real danger, a warning we have been issuing since the conflict began nearly a month ago,” UNHCR spokesperson said.

The agency, expressing its concern over unconfirmed reports of attacks, abductions and forced recruitment at the refugee camps, “UNHCR strongly reiterates its call for safety and security of refugees. With the current difficulties in communication and security hampering access it is not possible to verify current conditions in the camps.”

“No civilian should become a target, and all possible measures must be taken by all parties to ensure that — be they refugees, the internally displaced, host communities or humanitarian workers — they are all kept out of harm’s way,” the agency said.

“UNHCR appeals to the government of Ethiopia to continue to fulfill its responsibility in hosting and protecting Eritrean refugees and allow humanitarians to access people who are now desperately in need,” it added.

On Saturday last week, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced the “full command” of the Tigray regional state capital, Mekelle, which marked the completion of the military operations.

However, unconfirmed reports are indicating ongoing fighting between the Ethiopian army and forces loyal to the TPLF in parts of the Tigray region.   Enditem

On Dec. 1, Ethiopia’s sole telecom operator, Ethio-Telecom on Wednesday disclosed it has restored partial telecom services in the country’s northern Tigray regional state.

In a press statement, Ethio-Telecom said partial telecom services have been restored after a more than three weeks long communications blackout.  

“It is to be recalled because of the problem that happened in Tigray over the last three weeks that there was telecom interruption,” said the statement.

“Currently, through maintenance and rehabilitation of telecom infrastructures, as well as using alternative power sources we’ve resumed telecommunications services in several areas” the statement further said.

Ethio-Telecom said the cities on Dansha, Terkan, Maitsebri, Humera, Sheraro and Mai-Kadra had partial telecom restoration while Alamata city’s telecommunication services were fully restored.

PHOTO – (VOA) An Ethiopian refugee child holds an umbrella while sitting in line for water, at the Um Rakouba refugee camp on the Sudan-Ethiopia border in Sudan, Nov. 29, 2020.

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