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Partners warn surge of humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia as war breaks out

Partners warn surge of humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia as war breaks out

As war breaks out in Tigray, international humanitarian organizations engaged in humanitarian activities in Ethiopia warned that the number of people in need of food and humanitarian assistance will rise.

The dire problems of the COVID-19 pandemic, massive flooding and a desert locust outbreak destroying crops coupled with the ongoing war in Tigray, the international humanitarian organizations project, will lead to humanitarian crisis and increased food insecurity. 

International partners engaged in Humanitarian activities in the country, such as the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), the International Rescue Committee (IRC), and other partners called on both the Ethiopian and regional governments to prevent further crisis.

Accordingly, predicted the IRC, this year’s desert locust outbreak, the negative impact of climate change including widespread flooding and the COVID-19 outbreak continue to drive rising food insecurity with more than 8 million people in need of food assistance. This number is expected to rise to more than 11 million people by January, Elinor Raikes, Vice President Crisis Response, Recovery and Development warned.

Furthermore, “Any Conflict will hit the most vulnerable the hardest, and they cannot afford to be neglected. All parties must commit to ensuring the safety of these populations and adhere to international law. It is absolutely imperative that escalating tensions and conflict do not prevent the delivery of humanitarian aid. The needs and safety of civilians, including refugees and displaced persons, must be prioritized.” Elinor stated.

In a statement that The Reporter obtained on Thursday, Secretary General of NRC, Jan Egeland said that escalating tensions in Ethiopia threaten the “immediate” safety of hundreds of thousands of people and urged the Ethiopian government to manage the possible impact of military escalation which will intensify humanitarian crisis as the country is the host to hundreds of thousands of refugees.

“Any increase in violence would foreshadow further regional destabilization and humanitarian disaster,” he warned while the statement went on to urge all parties to deescalate tensions via dialogue and take all appropriate measures to end military action.

According to Egeland, there are currently 1.82 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) across Ethiopia, and a further 790,000 refugees seeking protection from other conflicts in the East Africa region. He further underlined that humanitarian needs are high and resources to meet them are scarce, especially during the pandemic.

The NRC is one of the international partners who are actively operating in Ethiopia, assisting millions of refugees Ethiopia hosts under the UNHCR and Administration of Refugees and Returnees Authority (ARRA). It has provided assistance since 2011 assisting the refugee population in Ethiopia, which has been on the rise. Currently, Ethiopia is Africa's second largest refugee hosting country with 769,310 refugees. They are mainly from neighboring South Sudan, Eritrea, Sudan and Somalia.

Tigray region is one of the locations where refugees particularly from Eritrea are located. Hence, as the escalation intensifies, the safety of these refugees becomes jeopardized. Furthermore, since the federal and regional governments are already at war, it is uncertain how the federal governmental agency [ARRA] will manage the refugee crisis in the future.

The Reporter’s attempt to solicit information on this issue did not bear fruit as government officials declined requests to comment on the matter.

Another organization mainly operating in Tigray, the International Rescue Committee (IRC), for its part said that it is “extremely concerned” about escalating tensions and hostilities in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, where many refugees, displaced people and local communities are reeling from a year of multiple humanitarian disasters.

The IRC is working in Tigray to support 90,000 refugees in four camps with a range of services, including providing clean water, sanitation, primary healthcare and education. 

Since the escalation began on Tuesday, other regional and international agencies including the United Nations (UN) have been expressing their concerns regarding the existing conflict in Ethiopia while others urged both sides to refrain from further escalation.