Red Cross: Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region ‘largely inaccessible’

An Ethiopian refugee, who fled the Tigray conflict, walks in the Tenedba camp in Mafaza, eastern Sudan on January 8, 2021. (Ashraf Shazly, AFP)

Ethiopia’s embattled northern region of Tigray remains largely inaccessible, the International Red Cross said Wednesday. The situation has led to starvation deaths, the organization said.

“Eighty percent of the Tigray is unreachable at this particular time,” president of the Ethiopian Red Cross Society, Abera Tola, told a press conference.

“People in Tigray need everything: food and food items, water and sanitation, medical supplies, and mobile clinics. And humanitarian organizations need access to Tigray to reach the most vulnerable. And this is a call to hold the parties involved: give us safe and unhindered access, respect our teams, respect the medical doctors, respect the health facilities, respect the health workers”, said Francesco Rocca, president of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Aid agencies, including the United Nations warned that tens of thousands could starve to death, because the region was cut off from humanitarian assistance. The World Food Programme said it reached a deal with the government to scale up operations in Tigray.

On Monday, the UN received approvals for 25 international staff to be deployed to Tigray. Saviano Abreu, a spokesman for the UN humanitarian coordination office, told AFP on Wednesday that this is just “a first step”.

The toppling of the region’s former ruling party, the Tigray’s People Liberation Front (TPLF), by the federal government, has left a dire situation on the ground.

Humanitarian workers and diplomats say ongoing insecurity has hampered aid response. The Ethiopian Red Cross now estimates that around 3.8 million of the region’s almost 6 million people need humanitarian assistance. This is figure is up from an earlier estimate of 2.4 million, according to Abera Tola.

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