Panafrican News Agency

Ethiopian Crisis: UNHCR says it is poised to resume aid delivery to displaced in Tigray

Geneva, Switzerland (PANA) - The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, says it is ready to resume its full humanitarian activities in the Tigray region in Ethiopia as soon as the situation allows, following an agreement to restore access.

UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch said at a press briefing in Geneva on Friday that the agreement was reached recently between the UN in the country and the Federal Government to facilitate access to aid organizations to provide assistance to civilians affected by the month-long conflict.

"In Shire, in Tigray, UNHCR staff in the town together with partners have already distributed water, high energy biscuits, clothes, mattresses, sleeping mats and blankets to an estimated 5,000 internally displaced," he said.

However, he added, "we continue to receive disturbing reports regarding the Eritrean refugee camps in the region, which remain incommunicado. The details of damages and disruptions remain unknown until we are able to reach them and verify the information.

Baloch said UNHCR is discussing with the federal government’s refugee agency on logistics arrangements, and the need to assess the security situation before the resumption of humanitarian activities.

Fears are that many Eritrean refugees may have already fled the camp in search of safety.

Baloch said, meanwhile, inside neighbouring Sudan, Ethiopian refugee arrivals continue with the total number having now crossed 47,000.

He said more than 1,000 arrived on Thursday, the majority in the evening.

"Refugees are telling UNHCR of more people on the move in search of safety. A small number of Eritrean refugees have also arrived from the Tigray region in recent days," he said.

UNHCR, together with the Sudanese authorities, has moved some 11,150 refugees from Hamdayet and Abderafi border points to Um Rakuba camp – 70 kilometres away from the Ethiopian border.

Baloch said many refugees say they prefer to remain near the border to wait for family members still in Ethiopia, or in hopes they will be able to return home soon - including farmers, who have fled during the harvesting season.

But refugees also say they are fearful of more violence inside Tigray.

In another development, Ethiopia's state-owned telecom, Ethio Telecom, has said that it has resumed services in some parts of Tigray, the state-owned Ethiopian News Agency (ENA) reported. 

According to the company, there has been telecom services interruption in Tigray for the last three weeks due to the fighting between government troops and forces loyal to the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF).

Ethio Telecom disclosed that it has resumed telecom service using alternative power solutions after conducting the necessary maintenance and rehabilitation works on damaged telecom infrastructure.

"Telecom service has accordingly been partially resumed in Dansha, Turkan, Humera, Shiraro, Maytsebri, and Maikadra, while full service was resumed in Alamata," it said in a statement, adding that it is working hard to restore telecom services in all areas of the region within a short period.

-0- PANA MA/AR 4Dec2020