The United Nations and partners are being thwarted in delivering aid to victims of the Tigray crisis in the northern Ethiopia area by blocked roads, threatening food insecurity for millions, UN humanitarians said late on Tuesday.
"Roads to the Tigray region remain blocked and humanitarian partners are warning that humanitarian supplies will soon be exhausted, putting millions at risk of food insecurity and disease, among other challenges," the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a release.
"I am increasingly concerned about the evolving humanitarian situation in northern Ethiopia and neighboring areas," Undersecretary-General Mark Lowcock, the UN's emergency relief coordinator, said in a statement. "Even before the current hostilities, nearly a million people in Tigray, and millions more who live in close proximity to its regional and national boundaries, were in need of humanitarian assistance."
"The current situation is heightening the needs and the vulnerability of local people," he said. "It is disrupting the work of UN and other humanitarian organizations. I call for full access to reach people in need wherever they are; safe passage for civilians seeking assistance; and the security of aid workers."
A Humanitarian Preparedness Plan targeting 1.98 million people with multi-sector assistance in the Tigray, Afar and Amhara regions has been finalized, OCHA said.
Humanitarian agencies are urging donors to rapidly fund the plan so that once access is granted, the response can quickly begin.
The spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Stephane Dujarric, told reporters at a regular briefing that UN humanitarian partners in Ethiopia report the first group of non-essential United Nations and non-governmental staff who were evacuated from Tigray, through the Afar region, arrived safely in Addis Ababa Monday night.
A second group arrived in Semera in Afar Tuesday morning, after a short delay due to insecurity concerns. Approximately 400 staff and foreign nationals have been relocated from Tigray.
The UN resident coordinators and their teams in the Horn of Africa are deeply concerned with the situation in Ethiopia and reiterate the secretary-general's call this month to de-escalate tensions.
"Our UN teams in four countries -- Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan and Djibouti -- are working with authorities to address the needs of the most affected people," Dujarric said. "In Ethiopia, the UN team is particularly concerned about the plight of some of the most vulnerable households in the Tigray. It is also concerned with the movement of people and the risk this entails for the spread of COVID-19."
He said that since the beginning of the conflict Nov. 4, communications have broken down, interrupting access to health facilities.
The UN Refugee Agency is warning that a full-scale humanitarian crisis is unfolding as 4,000 refugees daily flee from fighting in the Tigray region into eastern Sudan, a number not seen in this part of the country for the last two decades.
Since the early hours of Nov. 4, the Ethiopian government has been undertaking military operations against the Tigray People's Liberation Front, local force in the Tigray regional state.