Tigray isolated, humanitarian access hindered — UN
United Nations, July 2 (IANS): Ethiopia’s conflict-hit Tigray region is isolated and unpredictable with no flights or road transportation in or out and electricity and telecommunications cut, UN humanitarians said.
“Major towns, including Mekelle, Adigrat, Adwa, Axum and Shire, remain calm, but there are unconfirmed reports of clashes in the southern and northwestern zones,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said.
“Despite this, humanitarian partners continue to operate, in line with humanitarian principles,” it added.
“The UN Migration Agency delivered fuel to operate water pumps, as well as firewood for cooking in a few displacement sites in the Mekelle area, benefiting several thousand people,” said Eri Kaneko, associate spokeswoman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
“The UN and its humanitarian partners continue to bring water into Shire and displacement sites in Mekelle,” she told reporters at a regular briefing.
An international non-governmental organization provides medical services in Samre town, in the southeastern zone.
Correspondents asked her about reports on the destruction of a critical bridge over the Tekeze River, confounding plans for distribution of aid and also on efforts to establish an air bridge to fly in relief supplies.
“Our understanding is that the airports are still closed,” she replied.
“So, we have not been able to get staff or supplies in or out.”
Kaneko heard the bridge reports but had no information on them.
As for UN staffing, the spokeswoman said the world organization still has 419 staff members supporting the humanitarian response in Tigray, adding that most of the staff members are in Mekelle and Shire.
The UN and humanitarian partners urgently assess access along main roads to get additional staff and supplies into Tigray for relief operations, she said.
The goal is to restore electricity and telecommunications and ensure that cash and fuel are available throughout the region.
On Monday, the Ethiopian government announced the unilateral ceasefire, saying the move followed a request by the Tigray regional state interim administration that was assigned by the federal government after the ouster of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which used to rule the region.
The unilateral ceasefire is said to facilitate humanitarian assistance, peaceful livelihood in the region as well as agriculture activities amid the approaching rainy season.
Since the early hours of November 4, 2020, the Ethiopian government launched military operations against the TLPF after the latter rejected political reforms and captured army bases.
The fierce fighting between the two sides has left thousands of people dead.
More than two million have been displaced and 350,000 pushed towards famine.