As scale-up of the response continues, the overall security situation remains challenging and unpredictable. Armed clashes continue to be reported, particularly in North-Western, Central and Eastern Zones, affecting humanitarian operations and scale up to people in need and the provision of humanitarian and protection services.
Incidents of temporary arrests and intimidation of humanitarian workers at military checkpoints as well as looting and confiscation of humanitarian assets and supplies continue . An INGO truck carrying 500 non-food items kits, flour and water treatment chemicals (chlorine)-funded by the Ethiopian Humanitarian Fund was seized reportedly by the Ethiopian Defense Forces. The drivers were handed over to the police where they have been reportedly severely mistreated, charged and released on bail days later. At the time of writing this report, partners have learned the content of the truck was confiscated while the truck is being used by the military. Similarly, six INGO staff returning from providing health and nutrition services in Tanqua Melash Woreda, Central Zone, were stopped at a military checkpoint on 1 June. They were interrogated, intimidated and physically assaulted and held at a nearby military compound for 10 hours.
In North-Western Zone, partners report being denied movement in Endamadre checkpoint by Amhara Special Forces (ASF), impacting the movement of critical supplies from Gondar to Shire. Reportedly, ASF are requesting an authorization letter from interim authorities in Mae-Tsebri, which contravenes the declaration made by the Prime Minister’s Office on 3 March granting “unfettered access through Tigray to humanitarian organizations”. The situation in the check point in Agulae (Eastern Zone) located on the road between Mekelle and Adigrat has improved over the past two weeks, with previous denials of movement by parties to the conflict lifted.
During the reporting period, OCHA, UNICEF and Save the Children International carried out joint assessment missions to several areas in Central Zone. which is one of the most affected zones by the conflict. In Maryknetal, Edega Arabi, and Nablet towns, the mission observed dysfunctional water systems, looted and not functional health facilities, farmlands are being cultivated while limited number of people received food support. Several villages along the road were completely deserted and houses are looted. An INGO is providing medical support to pregnant and lactating women and children under the age of 5 twice a week. Similarly, in Adet, Naeder’s Dego Kebele (neighborhood), Naeder’s Daero Hafash Kebele, Chila Town, Ahsea and Egela Woredas, limited food assistance has been provided since the start of the conflict. There are no water and health services. In Rama Woreda, the situation is relatively better where an INGO has provided food assistance to more than 53,000 people out of the 75,000 population and to the 5000 IDPs staying with host community. The primary hospital is operational albeit with limited staff and limited medical equipment and supplies. Commercial activities have resumed although primary hospitals, schools, houses and shops have been looted.
In South-Eastern Zone, OCHA conducted an assessment mission to Gijet Town, Saharti Woreda on 1 June. According to local authorities, more than 8,000 people are displaced to the town with the majority staying with host community. Others are staying in the open air, exposed to COVID-19, cholera, and other health and protection risks. The upcoming rainy season risk to aggravate their situation. An INGO, along with the Government, provided a second round of food to more than 48,000 people. Limited emergency shelter, non-food items, nutrition supply and medicine were also provided by another INGO.
If not addressed immediately, food insecurity and malnutrition risk which are already at catastrophic levels will continue to decline with the risk of substantial famine. Preliminary field reports from Axum and Adwa (Central Zone) indicate visible signs of starvation among IDPs, where women and children look extremely weak, emaciated, and falling asleep for extended periods of time. In Zinban-Gedena Kebele, North-Western Zone, air workers noted severe need for food, after the harvests have been burnt or looted. Residents described signs of starvation among several men and women. At IDP sites in Adrigat, Eastern Zone, food is a priority gap, along with protection and adequate shelter.
Urgent lifesaving and serious protection needs persist across the region, including sexual gender-based violence (SGBV) at a large scale. The reported cases of SGBV, however, do not represent the actual cases as underreporting is widespread due to fear of stigmatization and/or retaliation, limited access to trusted service providers, and widespread impunity for perpetrators.
The Government reportedly plans IDPs relocations and return to areas of origin. Any returns of IDPs must be voluntary, safe, fully informed, dignified and in line with the Ethiopian Government’s commitment to Kampala Convention on protecting, assisting and resolving the plight of IDPs.
To date, some 78,011 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in the region with 78 per cent in the community, 4 per cent for IDPs, and 18 per cent among health care workers. This includes over 13,000 people vaccinated during the week. More than 55 per cent of the vaccinated people are from Mekelle.
On 2 June, more than a dozen key donor countries jointly called for a humanitarian ceasefire in Tigray region. “We need to act now to mitigate famine, protect civilians and save lives. All parties should cease hostilities, allow unhindered access and respect International Humanitarian Law,” the EU in Ethiopia tweeted.
On 3 June, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs convened a meeting with humanitarian partners and the diplomatic community. The Government briefed on progress including extension of NGO visas to three months, clearance for communications equipment, and opening Shire air strip for humanitarian cargo air transportation in two weeks, if security situation allows. Participants raised concerns of access restrictions and the need to strengthen civil-military coordination.