Um Rakuba refugee camp on 2 December 2020. The camp is located 70 kilometers from the Ethiopian border inside eastern Sudan. It currently hosts some 10,000 Ethiopia refugees, who have fled fighting in Ethiopia’s Tigray region over the past month. Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), was on the ground in the camp speaking with families who had fled the violence. NRC has set up emergency schooling for children displaced by the violence. Already a school for 700 children is up and running after five days operating in the camp.

Copyright: Ingebjørg Kårstad / Norwegian Refugee Council
Read caption Living conditions for Tigrayans who fled the border from Ethiopia into Sudan. Photo: Ingebjørg Kårstad/NRC

Statement by Secretary General Jan Egeland: Aid still not reaching Tigray

Published 01. Feb 2021
Twelve weeks since the start of conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, meaningful humanitarian operations have still not begun. Aid organisations 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.

Reacting to the persistent humanitarian access challenges into Tigray, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) Jan Egeland, said:

“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.

Twelve weeks since the fighting began, the basic elements of a response on the scale needed are still not in place. It is false to say that aid is increasingly getting through. 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. 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 recognise 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.”

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