As a year-long conflict escalates in northern Ethiopia, the United Nations World Food Program, Human Rights Watch and other organizations intensify their appeals to allow fighters to stop abuse and provide emergency aid to millions of at-risk civilians. are doing.
Meanwhile, people displaced by fighting in the eastern Amhara region say that beyond the immediate violence of the war, they also struggle with hunger and unmet serious medical needs.
Residents interviewed by the VOA’s Horn of Africa Service at a refugee camp in the Amhara regional capital, Bahir Dar, spoke this week about persistent deaths and funerals for individuals who died in recent weeks from hunger or lack of medicine.
The Amhara region lies to the south of the Tigre region, where Ethiopian federal forces and their allies began fighting in November 2020 to quell an insurgency by the politically influential Tigre People’s Liberation Front and its fighters. The conflict has killed thousands and spread to neighboring areas, including Amhara and Afar.
Zellem Lizalem, commissioner of the Amhara Regional Disaster Prevention and Coordinating Food Security Program, said about a third of the region’s more than 21 million residents need emergency humanitarian assistance. Zellem told a news conference in Bahir Dar on Monday that there are 2.1 million internally displaced people in need and another 5 million people still in areas controlled by the TPLF.
The battle has “closed the main corridors to Tigre and Amhara”. [regions]Despite this, he said, the organization provided food and nutrition to 2.6 million people in Tigre, 220,000 in Amhara and 124,000 in Afar, WFP spokesman Tomson Firi told a news briefing in Geneva on Tuesday. related assistance provided.
Responding to VOA’s written questions, another WFP spokesman, Kyle Wilkinson, said that according to government estimates, about 1.7 million people have been displaced in the Amhara region, and 3.7 million people in the region “are in urgent need of food assistance.” “
Firi said his agency has launched a two-week “major food aid campaign serving more than 450,000 people” in the northern Ethiopian cities of Kombolcha and Daisi.
Firi said, “For WFP to increase the distribution of food aid to save the lives of 3.7 million people in northern Ethiopia, all sides must cooperate to facilitate the movement of supplies across battle lines and wherever And allow access to the affected population whenever needed.”
He also said the agency was facing a $546 million shortfall for efforts to “save and change the lives of 12 million people over the next six months” across Ethiopia.
evidence of robbery
The availability of relief material has been hampered by looting and sabotage. Firi said WFP was able to reach humanitarian warehouses in Kombolcha in the Amhara region last week, only to find “substantial quantities of food looted from damaged equipment, vandalized storage units and facilities. This food loss means fewer people.” is needed. Can be accessed by WFP and its partners.”
He did not indicate when the vandalism occurred or who might be responsible.
Sean Jones, the head of the mission for international development in Ethiopia, said in an interview with Ethiopian state TV in late August that TPLF fighters were guilty of looting and destroying humanitarian goods in at least some Amhara locations.
TPLF spokesman Getachev Reda said in a September 1 tweet that his organization was to blame, “While we cannot confirm every unacceptable behavior of off-grid fighters in such cases, we have evidence that such The loot is mainly done by local individuals and groups.” He demanded an independent investigation.
Fighting on the Tigre, TPLF attacks and a federal government blockade imposed in June have halted aid. But, as The Associated Press reported, a joint investigation by the United Nations Human Rights Council and the government-appointed Ethiopian Human Rights Commission “could not confirm the deliberate or intentional denial of humanitarian aid to the civilian population in Tigre or the use of starvation.” Weapon of War.”
Demand for ‘Investigation Mechanism’
On Tuesday, Human Rights Watch said in a statement, citing the joint investigation, that the UNHRC should “establish an independent international investigative mechanism” to document the abuse, “to ensure accountability and prevent impunity”. .
Human Rights Watch said its own research found “serious violations and violations of international human rights and humanitarian law” on multiple fronts, including “obstructing humanitarian aid, leaving millions at risk of famine and disease”.
In mid-November, the UN humanitarian chief, Martin Griffiths, announced $40 million in new humanitarian aid for Ethiopia. The purpose of the funding is to provide aid and civil protection in a country beset by conflict and drought.
This report originated in the VOA’s Horn of Africa Service.