Ethiopia’s Tigray crisis on the verge of a humanitarian disaster

Green first aid bag Green first aid bag Photo by Milan Degraeve on Unsplash

10 March 2021

Humanitarian aid finds it difficult to reach people in need in Tigray. 

In Ethiopia’s Tigray region the conflict broke out in November affecting nearly six million people whose needs are overwhelming. Furthermore, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has warned that around 3.8 million people are in urgent need of material assistance, accommodation, and medical treatment even if medical facilities in Tigray are in very poor conditions. Thus, actions need to be taken soon to avoid starvation and death to over ten thousands people. 

Since war broke out in the Tigray region, according to the BBC, the fighting has produced thousands of deaths and about two million people have been internally displaced. Further, the conflict has had a devastating impact on peoples’ lives. Humanitarian agencies continue to report violence against civilians, including killing, rapes, gender-based violence, mass killings and indiscriminate shelling as well as the destruction of private and public buildings. Besides, lack of assistance in rural areas continues to drive displacements of people from the countryside to towns. Indeed, Tigray has been isolated from the rest of the world, the electricity has been cut, phone and internet services are disconnected and roads are blocked as a result international agencies can provide humanitarian assistance in towns only. Also, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported at least 85 incidents of looting of humanitarian vehicles, together with the vandalization of several humanitarian infrastructures, health centres and water points, underlining the difficulties faced by aid organizations. 

Only recently access improved, thanks also to the green light given by the Prime Minister to the operations of humanitarian agencies in the region. For instance, the ICRC and Ethiopian Red Cross Society (ERCS) succeeded in jointly delivering emergency relief supplies to meet the needs of internally displaced people (IDPs). Indeed, after the eruption of the fighting, supplies were cut off and the ICRC has been the first and only international organization to distribute food and deliver medical supplies to eight hospitals in North Tigray. Nevertheless, an increased response by humanitarian agencies and by the government is required to provide emergency relief assistance to people affected by conflict and inter-communal clashes. 

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Author: Eleonora Gonnelli; Editor: Benedetta Spizzichino

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