Jan Egeland, the head of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), says aid agencies have not been able to reach trapped civilians, including women and children, in Ethiopia’s Tigray since the conflict started 12 weeks ago.
He said he’d rarely seen an aid response impeded so much. Egeland added that the international community was failing in its duty to reach millions of desperate people.
There’s mounting evidence that all sides in the conflict have been committing human rights abuses against civilians.
He says areas where aid organizations were able to reach are limited to those on major roads in the Tigray’s capital, Mekelle.
He said: “Twelve weeks since the start of conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, meaningful humanitarian operations have still not begun. Aid organizations are unable to reach the Central and Western parts of the region, and two refugee camps are completely inaccessible.
In the few instances where agencies are accessing the region, it is limited to areas along major roads or the capital Mekelle. Aid workers face an unpredictable approval process with blurred lines of authorizations, as well as unclear and shifting approval procedures.
“In all my years as an aid worker, I have rarely seen a humanitarian response so impeded and unable to deliver in response for so long, to so many with such pressing needs. As an international community, we are clearly failing to deliver against the humanitarian imperative we are facing.”
According to him, aid has only gone to the places with little conflict and more limited needs and is not keeping pace with the humanitarian crisis as it inevitably grows over time.
He said, “millions of women, children and men, including refugees, are in a truly desperate situation, suffering alone without aid or protection.
“We know this can change overnight. The government has in the past consistently proven that it can effectively coordinate the delivery of aid at the scale needed in many other parts of Ethiopia and we believe it can do so again. I strongly urge all authorities to do whatever it takes to enable unrestricted and unconditional access to those most in need, regardless of their locations.
“The entire aid sector, NRC included, must also recognize our failure to define the scale of the crisis, to respond early, to coordinate and to speak out all of which has crippled the collective response.
“We must all act now and play our part to ensure aid reaches the millions of people suffering in Tigray.”