The humanitarian situation in Tigray remains dire, while the spillover of the conflict to neighboring Amhara and Afar regions is rapidly increasing the humanitarian needs. The delivery of humanitarian supplies remains heavily constrained via the only access route to the region (Semera-Abala-Mekelle corridor). The security situation along the road remains calm but unpredictable.
On 20 September, 62 trucks of humanitarian supplies arrived in Tigray via Afar, the first convoy to arrive since 7 September. This brings the number of humanitarian trucks that entered Tigray since 12 July to 525 trucks (or less than 11 per cent of the trucks needed). Humanitarian partners estimate that 100 trucks with food, non-food items, and fuel must enter Tigray every day to meet the needs on the ground.
The last fuel tanker entered Tigray on 29 July, over 7 weeks ago, while nine tankers in Semera (Afar) are pending Government approval. On 17 September, the remaining WFP fuel tanker in Mekelle – which other agencies had been relying on - was depleted. Meanwhile, the authorities in Tigray stated on 17 September that they would stop providing fuel to the UN and NGOs due to shortages. Partners are now relying on their remaining and limited fuel reserves.
During the reporting period, partners managed to bring into the region 17 million birr in local currency (about US$ 370,000). This brings the amount of cash cleared and dispatched since 12 July to 144 million birr, or less than 5 per cent of what is needed. To sustain humanitarian operations, about $6.5 million, equivalent to 300 million birr, are needed every week, either through a functioning banking system or a relaxation of the cash limitation. As per the procedures set by the Government of Ethiopia, partners can carry a maximum of 2 million birr on the UN Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) flight.
Medical supplies are still denied entry to the region by the Government of Ethiopia. Commercial supplies remain blocked since 28 June, leading to severe shortages of essential commodities in the private markets and a spike in prices. This is compounded by significantly reduced purchasing power among vulnerable households due to loss of livelihoods including non-payment of salaries for civil servants, making it challenging for people to afford basic necessities.
In addition to the above operational constraints, many of the trucks bringing humanitarian aid into Tigray –primarily vehicles from private companies contracted by WFP and other agencies – have not returned from Tigray after arrival, further impacting the ability to send relief items into the region. Among the reasons cited by the drivers are lack of fuel to return as well as fear for their security as they were subjected to beating, harassment, intimidation, and theft on the route from Semera to Mekelle.
UNHAS continues to operate two passenger flights per week between Addis Ababa and Mekelle, with 15 flights having operated to date since July. Passengers reported moderate searches at Addis Ababa airport on departure and arrival during the reporting period.
The number of food-insecure people continues to increase, with at least 5.2 million people targeted for emergency food assistance in Tigray. With few exceptions, between April and August 2021, food partners have distributed the agreed common food basket, meant to cover 63 per cent of the caloric needs of the population. However, as food rounds have stretched longer than expected, up to four to five months instead of six weeks, the distributed assistance covered is much less than the minimum caloric needs.
According to a recent intention survey by partners, 89 per cent of surveyed internally displaced households in Tigray prefer to return to their places of origin and 10 per cent want to locally integrate. Of those who wanted to return, 95 per cent stated that the availability of food was the main factor to be ensured before returning. This was followed by the need for safety and security (64 per cent); the renovation or reconstruction of shelter (40 per cent); and the availability of livelihood options (29 per cent). Similar trends were observed among internally displaced persons (IDPs) living in collective centers with 86 per cent of them preferring to return to their places of origin. An overwhelming majority or 99 per cent of surveyed internally displaced households said that their main need is food, followed by shelter with 71 per cent and NFIs by 63 per cent.
Between 15 and 20 September, the first IDP groups were relocated from schools used as shelters to the new relocation site “Sabacare 4” in Mekelle where 2,727 people (722 households) have been relocated. The site has a capacity to accommodate about 20,000 people.
The spillover of the conflict into neighboring Afar and Amhara regions continues to affect civilians with increased food insecurity, increased displacement, and disruption of livelihoods. In Afar, it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of people are directly affected by the conflict, including several tens of thousands displaced.
In Amhara, the humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate due to the active conflict along the Tigray regional border further increasing the number of IDPs, including in North Gondar, Central Gondar, South Wello, South Gondar, and Awi Zones. Unverified reports indicate that tens of thousands of people are under siege or in areas controlled by armed forces with no access to assistance (North Wollo, Wag Hemra, and North Gonder Zones). Despite challenges, including limited presence of humanitarian partners, limited or no access to some areas due to insecurity, and lack of resources, partners continue to scale up the response and to support the regional authorities-led response efforts in both regions (Afar and Amhara). To date, partners reached 148,000 people in Afar with food and about 87,000 people with safe drinking water through water trucking. About 11,600 households benefitted from emergency shelter and non-food items support and 1,552 households from cash assistance. About 57,600 IDPs received health and nutrition services.
In Amhara, nutrition partners distributed 11,089 cartons of “ready to use” therapeutic food; 126 cartons of F75 therapeutic milk; 112 cartons of F100 therapeutic milk; while 5,189 cartons of high energy biscuit were prepositioned. The National Disaster Risk Management Commission (NDRMC) distributed food to 428,588 people in conflict-affected areas. WFP food distribution is ongoing to affected populations in Dessie and Kombolcha towns, South Wello Zone.
On 17 September, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Dr. Catherine Sozi led a high-level delegation of partners to attend the reactivation of the Emergency Coordination Centre (ECC) in Bahir Dar, Amhara Region, to strengthen coordination and increase presence on the ground, and to provide technical and financial support to the regional authorities. The ECC meeting was chaired by the President of Amhara region, Mr. Agegnehu Teshager, and attended by high level government officials including the Minister of Peace, H.E. Ms. Muferihat Kamil; Commissioner for NDRMC, Mr. Ato Mitiku Kassa; and Minister of Water, and Mine and Energy, Dr. Engineer Sileshi Bekele.