Struggle hindering aid delivery to Tigray in Ethiopia: UN | Ethiopia

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The United Nations has said ongoing fighting “in many parts” of Ethiopian Tigray complicates efforts to provide humanitarian aid despite an agreement granting the UN access to federally controlled territory.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced a month ago military operations in the northern region against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

Last week he declared victory, saying the fighting was “over” after federal forces entered the regional capital Mekelle. But the TPLF has promised to keep fighting.

“We have reports of continuing fighting in many parts of Tigray. This is worrying and it is a complex situation for us, ”Saviano Abreu, spokesperson for the UN humanitarian coordination office, told AFP news agency on Friday.

The conflict has claimed thousands of lives, according to the International Crisis Group (ICG) think tank, and tens of thousands of refugees have crossed the border into Sudan.

Ethiopian refugees line up for supplies at Um Rakuba refugee camp in Sudan [File: Baz Ratner/Reuters]

The UN has warned of a possible humanitarian disaster in Tigray, although a power failure made it difficult to assess conditions on the ground.

More than 45,000 people have fled the conflict from Tigray to Sudan, although Sudanese forces said Thursday that Ethiopian forces have prevented people from crossing the border at its busiest point.

Malcolm Webb of Al Jazeera, who reported from Kenya’s capital Nairobi, said thousands of civilians were reportedly killed in the fighting.

“Massacres of civilians by militias on both sides have also been reported. Leaders on both sides deny it, ”he said.

“It is very difficult for anyone to verify any of these claims because there is almost no access to aid workers, human rights defenders and journalists.”

On Wednesday, the UN said it had reached an agreement to administer aid to government-controlled areas of Tigray.

But on Friday, security assessments were still ongoing, and three UN officials told AFP aid is not expected to arrive until next week.

‘No access’

“Basically at the moment there is no access,” an official told AFP, arguing that the UN and the government “should have delayed” announcing the deal until what preparations are progressing.

“When you go public like they did, it creates expectations for people who think, ‘Access has been granted, why isn’t the help coming to us?’ The official said, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject. .

The UN continues to negotiate “with all parties to the conflict” to ensure unhindered access, Abreu said.

“We got that access, that deal with the federal government. But we also need to have the same type of agreement with all parties to the conflict to ensure that we do indeed have unconditional free access to Tigray, ”he said.

He stressed that some aid was still administered.

” Hundreds of [humanitarian workers] are still on the ground and doing all they can to provide assistance to those affected by the conflict and to those who already needed it before the fighting, ”he said.

Refugee security

Of particular concern is the plight of some 96,000 Eritrean refugees who, before the conflict, lived in camps in northern Tigray, in areas believed to have experienced heavy fighting.

Earlier this week, the UN made a public appeal to the government to allow aid in the camps, which are reportedly running out of food.

A government official told AFP there was likely to be a food “buffer” that would last all week.

The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) is keen to deliver food, medicine and other supplies to refugees and host communities as soon as possible, Ethiopian representative Ann told AFP on Friday. Against.

He also wants to assess the “very dark” reports about the security of the camps, which he was unable to verify due to the communication failure, Encontre said.

“We heard about the deaths of refugees, we heard that some were forced into conscription. We have heard of kidnappings, ”she said.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reported on Sunday that “some 1,000 Eritrean refugees have arrived in Mekelle from the refugee camps around Shire” in northern Tigray.

This week, several Eritrean refugees previously living in Tigray also traveled to Sudan, Encontre said.

Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, told Al Jazeera of Khartoum, the capital of Sudan: “We are very concerned. We had 108 aid workers in Tigray [before the conflict erupted], still 90 on the ground but many of them had to flee. ”

“It has been a war zone for some time now, 96,000 Eritrean refugees came to Tigray because they felt safe there. Now we don’t know at all.

“We hope that next week we will have access to Tigray for the first time in many months,” Egeland said.

“People fleeing Tigray talk about violence, generalized insecurity,” he said.

Fighting the ‘invaders’

The TPLF dominated Ethiopian politics for nearly 30 years before anti-government protests propelled Abiy to power in 2018.

The party then complained of being sidelined, and tensions escalated dramatically after Tigray held regional elections in September – defying a nationwide ban on polls due to the coronavirus pandemic – and sought to label Abiy as an illegitimate leader.

Tigrayan leader Debretsion Gebremichael has vowed to continue fighting as long as the federal “invaders” are on Tigrayan soil.

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