News: OCHA says life saving medical supplies continue to be denied entry into Tigray 

Addis Abeba October 16/2021 – In a lengthy report disclosing developments on the humanitarian response front in northern Ethiopia, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that essential and life saving assistance continue to be blocked from entering Tigray.


The overall situation in Northern Ethiopia remains unpredictable and volatile. Military reinforcements by parties to the conflict is being reported and the areas along the border between Tigray and Amhara and Afar have seen clashes during the past week. The spread of the conflict to Afar and Amhara regions is rapidly increasing the humanitarian needs, with access to some areas restricted due to conflict. 

In Tigray, the humanitarian situation continues to be increasingly dire, as the delivery of humanitarian supplies into the region is still heavily restricted via the only route through Afar (Semera-Abala-Mekelle). Checkpoints are in place along the routes, many of which conduct thorough searches of the trucks, significantly delaying cargo movements. 

Between 6-12 October, 211 trucks of humanitarian supplies arrived in Tigray, up from 80 trucks the week before. This brings the number of trucks carrying humanitarian supplies that have entered the region since 12 July to 897, or about 14 percent of the trucks needed.  While the increased number of trucks is a positive development, this is still insufficient compared to the need. An estimated 100 trucks with food, non-food items, and fuel must enter Tigray daily to meet the needs on the ground.

The trucks this week carried food, nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), and shelter supplies. Fuel, however, has still not been allowed into Tigray. Ten fuel tankers (45,000 liters/each) remain staged in Semera. They have however received approval by the Government to proceed and are expected to move to Tigray with the next convoy. Partners estimate they need more than 272,000 liters of fuel every month to carry out their humanitarian operations. Due to the severe shortages of fuel, several UN and NGO partners have had to significantly reduce or suspend their activities. Water trucking services in Central and Northwestern zones, for instance, are reduced from 67 trucks to 45 trucks two weeks ago as a result, affecting more than 472,000 people. Lack of fuel has also significantly affected the work to undertake improvements and repairs at IDP sites. Consequently, One UN agency temporarily withdrew staff from Abi Adi, Adigrat, Axum and Sheraro; two partner agencies reduced response in Adwa,Shire and Mekelle, while another partner halted operational activities completely.

Much-needed medical supplies and life-saving medications continue to be blocked from going   into Tigray, leading to an alarming deterioration of the health situation and crippling partners’ capacity to respond to urgent health needs.Nine trucks carrying medicines have been waiting for approval to proceed in Semera, since the beginning of August. Polio vaccines, for example, are urgently required to vaccinate more than 887,000 children and measles vaccines needed to vaccinate more than 790,000 children. Failure to do so will result in an outbreak. 

On 6 October, the second flight of the EU Humanitarian Air Bridge arrived in Mekelle with 10.6 metric tons (MT) of mixed humanitarian supplies and 4.4 MT of ready-to-use therapeutic food for severely malnourished children. 

UNHAS continues to operate two passenger flights per week between Addis Ababa and Mekele. Passengers reported intrusive and intensive searches at Addis Ababa airport on departures and arrivals. Some items, including personal medicines, were at times not allowed. UNHAS reported severe shortage of fuel to operate generators and vehicles at Mekelle airport to support the flight, while airport staff are not able to travel to work. This may have serious implications for the continuation of the flights.

Food continues to be urgently needed in Tigray and malnutrition continues to be at alarming levels. Between April and October 2021, food partners have distributed the common food basket, meant to cover 63 percent of the minimum caloric needs of the population (2,100 kcal per person per day), when stock was available. However, as rounds of food distribution have stretched longer than expected, up to 4 or 5 months instead of 6 weeks, it is estimated that the distributed assistance could cover, on average, 29 per cent of the minimum caloric needs of the population.

Approximately 105,000 children under five years of age, including more than 54,000 girls, were screened during the reporting period for acute malnutrition of whom 2,459, or about 2.3 per cent were diagnosed with severe acute malnutrition (SAM), compared to 2.1 per cent a week earlier. Malnutrition among pregnant and lactating women continues to be very high at about 63 per cent.

Some 18,600 children under the age of five in Tigray have been admitted for treatment for Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) from February to August this year compared to 8,900 in 2020, a 100 percent increase, according to UNICEF. In Afar Region, as of July, SAM admissions increased by 17 per cent as compared to the same period in 2020. 

The conflict continues to affect civilians in Afar and Amhara regions, leading to displacement, disruption of livelihoods and increased food insecurity.  In Amhara, hostilities have led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people in North Gondar, Central Gonder, South Wello, South Gonder, and Awi Zones. In Afar, it is also estimated that hundreds of thousands of people are directly affected by the conflict, including many tens of thousands displaced. Assistance is urgently needed to these areas and humanitarian partners are scaling up the humanitarian response in support of the regional authority-led responses (see below on response). OCHA

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