HUMANITARIAN PREPAREDNESS AND RESPONSE
Despite challenges, aid workers are scaling up the response and have assisted over 1 million people with complete food baskets. Nearly 140,000 newly displaced people received emergency shelter and vital relief items and more than 630,000 people received clean water. The response is, however, still inadequate to reach all estimated 4.5 million people who need life-saving assistance.
With the support of the Ministry of Peace and the Ethiopian Telecommunication Authority, UN Agencies have been able to reconnect some field offices to the internet in Mekelle and Shire and are able to regularly communicate with their counterparts. Additional UN offices and partners are continuing to advocate for expanding telecommunications access throughout the region given the lack of infrastructure to support mobile telephone use. While the ability of partners to physically access populations in centres may be increasing, ongoing population displacements to urban areas of Mekelle, Axum, Adwa, Shire and Adigrat from rural areas continues.
Outside of the major cities, an estimated 2.5 million people in rural areas have not had access to essential services over the last four months. Partners are working to decentralize relief activities outside the main axis Alamata - Mekelle - Adigrat and Shire, into the rural areas where security conditions allow. Reports of hostilities continue in parts of Central, Southern and South-East zones, making it difficult for partners to assist the population. On 18 March, an inter-agency joint assessment was conducted in Sheraro, Shimelba and Hitsats. In Sheraro, local authorities reported an estimated 95,000 displaced people and about 50 new daily arrivals. Many of those displaced reportedly fled from Western Zone, North-Western Zone and Amhara Region due to active conflict and/or allegedly pressure from Eritrean forces. Most are living with the host community and 30,000 are sheltered in five informal settlements. Others who have been displaced are reportedly scattered in hideouts, surroundings, and rural areas. Response in Sheraro remains inadequate and mainly reaches those already within the town. Limited medical, non-food items (NFIs) and protection support has been and is being provided. In Shimelba, there are reportedly at least 2,000 to 3,000 displaced people and host community members living in vulnerable circumstances in the refugee camp area. The exact number, however, remains unconfirmed for now. While needs in Shimelba are similar to those in Sheraro, there is no response in Shimelba. Facilities in Shimelba and Hitsats refugee camps have been looted and many shelters were destroyed and burnt. Comprehensive assistance in terms of food, shelter/NFI, WASH, health, nutrition, education and protection is urgently needed.
In Shire, all those who have been displaced, including the estimated 80,000 new arrivals, are sheltering in 14 education facilities. According to the Bureau of Labour and Social Affairs (BoLSA), an estimated 75 per cent of displaced people in Shire have been registered. Displaced people who have been living in Axum University Campus have received a two-week eviction notice to free up campus facilities. According to IOM DTM, 44,015 people were living on the campus. While new dedicated or formal sites need to be identified, dedicated sites about 7.5 km from Shire able to host 20,000 people have been approved with those who were to be evicted being prioritized for relocation. The recently activated Camp Coordination and Camp Management (CCCM) Cluster is already working on site planning and development activities in consultation with other clusters and partners.
Mekelle has seen a rapid expansion in the number of settlements in and around the city, from 8 to 15, due to both decongestion of overcrowded sites by authorities and movements to sites from host communities. The capacity of host communities to assist those who have been displaced is being rapidly exhausted. Without more assistance to communities, there are fears of a rise in secondary movements to already-overcrowded sites and with that, associated protection risks. In both Shire and Mekelle, plans for relocation suffered setbacks with previously identified sites being removed from consideration. Given these delays, it has become even more imperative to mitigate protection risks in the temporary sites. Shelter Cluster partners stress the need to prioritize assistance to displaced people sheltering in sub-standard dwellings such as churches, open spaces and in over-crowded situations; all of which may further expose women and girls to gender-based violence (GBV), and other health and protection-related concerns.
This past week, WHO activated a second sub-national Health Cluster Coordination Forum in Shire, in addition to the existing one in Mekelle, with the participation of nine partners. The Health Cluster continues to advocate for more partner presence in Tigray. To date, there are 18 operational partners in the region, 16 of whom are providing services through mobile health and nutrition teams on the ground, compared to 9 partners back in January 2021. Support to RHB and Woreda structures in surveillance strengthening and disease preparedness is a key milestone for the Health Cluster, with a marked improvement in weekly reporting and completeness of reports. WHO has supported the investigation of suspected cholera outbreak in Adwa and bacterial meningitis in Western Tigray. No disease outbreaks have been reported to date but there is heightened vigilance around a potential cholera outbreak. Health Cluster’s priorities include, among others, increasing access to essential health services through mobile teams; establishing patient referral pathways; revamping supply chain management and, revitalizing surveillance systems and COVID-19 interventions