UN requests $156 mn in aid for refugees from Ethiopia’s Tigray

One of the more than 52,000 refugees who fled fighting in Ethiopia's Tigray region to neighbouring Sudan. AFP

The United Nations on Tuesday appealed for $156 million to help the tens of thousands of refugees who have fled fighting in Ethiopia’s Tigray, again requesting full humanitarian access to the conflict-hit northern region.

UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet said her office had received numerous allegations of rights abuses during weeks of fierce fighting that followed Ethiopia’s government launching a military offensive against Tigray’s dissident leaders on November 4.

Those abuses include “artillery strikes on populated areas, the deliberate targeting of civilians, extra-judicial killings and widespread looting,” Bachelet said in a statement.

“These reports point to failure by the parties to the conflict to protect civilians,” she said, adding that due to a lack of access, the UN was not able to verify reports on the ground.

The UN refugee agency released a separate statement on Tuesday calling for urgent funding to address a “full-scale humanitarian emergency” sparked by the conflict.

It said that over the last six weeks more than 52,000 refugees have fled Tigray to a remote area in neighbouring Sudan.

That number does not include 96,000 Eritrean refugees who were already in Tigray before the fighting started and have been feared to be running low on food.

The $156 million requested by the UN along with 30 humanitarian partners would allow aid to continue during the first half of 2021, UN spokesman Andrej Mahecic said.

The funding would help the partners “meet the immense humanitarian needs in eastern Sudan and to ensure full preparedness throughout the region,” he told a press conference in Geneva.

Only 30 percent — $46 million — of the requested funds have been received so far.

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, last year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner, declared victory against the regional authorities from the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) in late November.

However the TPLF has vowed to fight on and in her statement Bachelet cited reports that clashes have continued.

The UN has repeatedly requested unimpeded humanitarian access across the region, and Bachelet did so again on Tuesday, while saying that two assessment missions were able to enter Tigray the day before.

Bachelet added that the reports of abuses underscored “the need for independent human rights monitors to be given access to Tigray to adequately assess the human suffering resulting from the conflict, verify allegations and to help ensure accountability for violations.”


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