Food Aid Blocked from Entering Tigray, People Are Dying; The Few Aid Trucks Which were Allowed to Enter Lack Fuel and Cash
Source: Globe News Net
September 22, 2021
Tigray’s External Affairs Bureau has released a weekly briefing on the blockade of humanitarian access and the humanitarian crisis as a result; and a Press statement on Humanitarian aid trucks to Tigray.
The briefing statement says that humanitarian aid access remains to be blocked; and that the humanitarian crisis is worsening.
The office also released new Graphic images of severely malnourished children in Tigray.
The briefing also said that preliminary assessment on schools in Tigray(except Western and North Western parts) were done and the findings were that ‘most classroom equipment, such as desks, armchairs, special needs materials and boards, administrative buildings, laboratories, electronics, and libraries were mostly destroyed’, and teachers have not been paid salary since June.
The briefing statement also detailed why the trucks sent to deliver humanitarian aid to Tigray were not able to go back, citing the severe oil shortage and the blockade by Ethiopian forces. This was corroborated by annother separate statement dedicated on the issue(humanitarian aid trucks to Tigray)
Beneath is the full text of both statements
A. Full text of the briefing statement
I. Humanitarian Concerns
No food aid entered Tigray last week, as the humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate and millions are in dire need of food, medical supplies, and nutrition.
Internally displaced persons (IDP’s) have been the most affected by the depletion of food stocks, which has had a significant impact on IDP centers that have already started to record deaths due to starvation. IDPs have started selling Non-Food Items (NFI’s) to meet basic needs such as food, firewood, and water while child labour amongst IDP communities has increased. Dignity kits are in short supply as the siege on Tigray continues to make life exceptionally difficult; a gap of 14,000 dignity kits was recorded in Mekelle alone as stocks for all NFI’s are running low.
Overcrowding in IDP centers and lack of sanitation facilities have also put the health and security of IDPs in danger making outbreaks an evident danger. A new wave of displacements in areas bordering Eritrea has so far recorded over 11,000 new IDPs. A total of 655 unaccompanied children were identified in Mekelle and 136 in Sheraro; partners and the government are working to facilitate alternative care.
Tigray is on day 86 of an all-encompassing siege that has blocked roads, banking services, electricity, and telecommunication services. Lack of fuel, cash, and communication are the most significant hurdles to the delivery of much-needed humanitarian assistance to the one million people in famine-like conditions.
General malnutrition rates stand at 23.7 percent with severe malnutrition at 3.4 percent. Malnutrition of pregnant and lactating women stands at over 70 percent, causing miscarriages, maternal death, and low birth weight. While reporting rates stand high at 79 percent, inpatient admission stands at just 3 percent as the demand for healthcare is beyond the capacity of what is left of the collapsed health system.
II. Back to School
The Tigray Bureau of Education has conducted a damage assessment for schools in Tigray, with the exception of schools in Western and North Western Tigray. Preliminary findings indicate that most classroom equipment, such as desks, armchairs, special needs materials and boards, administrative buildings, laboratories, electronics, and libraries were mostly destroyed. For instance, Atse Yohannes Secondary school in Mekelle, Negash Elementary school in the town of Negash, and Endabaguna Elementary school around shire are just a few of the eight schools confirmed to have been destroyed.
Teachers have not received their monthly salary since June while lack of communication has served as an additional hindrance for operations necessary to restart schools in September.
Sanitation facilities, such as hand wash and water tanks were almost completely destroyed by invading forces which makes the implementation of COVID-19 safety protocols all the more difficult.
All students from preschool to 6th grade have started registration in both public and private schools. The Tigray Bureau of Education has developed manuals and guidelines on community-based resource mobilization. Partner organizations and the government are working to assist students in acquiring school materials.
The evacuation of IDPs from schools in Mekelle started on September 15, 2021. The government is working to authorize the use of an additional public building for repurposed uses such as unfinished government buildings, colleges, and universities for the relocation of IDPs.
Reestablishing Tigray’s educational system will require support to revitalize the electronic systems, providing psychosocial support, and metal and woodwork, as well as food and nutrition for students.
The Government of Tigray believes that restarting schools will make it possible for both government and partner organizations to implement more viable interventions for communities across Tigray.
II. Other Matters
UN Ethiopia on Humanitarian aid Trucks
On September 16, 2021, UN Ethiopia issued a statement on Twitter raising concerns that trucks carrying humanitarian aid to Tigray have failed to return. Despite the insinuation of a nefarious intent behind the delay of those trucks, the facts surrounding the failure of those trucks merely highlight the devastating consequences of the total blockade imposed on Tigray by Abiy Ahmed’s government. As previously expressed by the Government of Tigray, it should be clear that the UN hires private trucks to transport humanitarian aid end-to-end and this formal contractual arrangement has nothing to do with the Government of Tigray, and that it is the consequences of the siege on Tigray that has made it virtually impossible for the trucks to leave. First, there is a severe fuel shortage throughout Tigray. Truckers are not immune from this region-wide shortage. Second, there is incessant harassment of truckers to and from Tigray on the many checkpoints along the way. Third, there are also unexpected and unexplained delays in Semera, often lasting weeks and even months, which makes truckers reluctant to venture out of Tigray.
Despite the enormity of the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe and the multifaceted crises confronting Tigray, the Government of Tigray has affirmed its commitment to facilitating the smooth arrival and departure of trucks carrying much-needed humanitarian aid.
Desert locust sightings
There have been sightings of desert locusts across dozens of woredas in Tigray since the first week of May 2021 including in Churcher, Raya Azebo, Enda Mekoni, Selawa, Kola Tembain, and others. Meaningful intervention would require monitoring and coordination among partners and communities as well as the expenditure of over 100 million birr.
B. Full Text of the Press Statement on Humanitarian aid trucks to Tigray.
On September 16, 2021, UN Ethiopia, on its official twitter account, expressed concern that aid trucks that had come to Tigray have not returned yet. This statement was issued on the heels of an official statement from, among others, the Ministry of Peace with an identical message, hinting at an apparent coordination. Predictably, various media outlets affiliated with the Abiy Ahmed regime were busy amplifying UN Ethiopia’s statement with the dangerous insinuation that either the trucks were being commandeered for a different purpose or that the trucks were prevented from departing for some other nefarious political purpose. The brevity and ambiguity of the statement left considerable room for interpretation.
Before presenting the facts of the case, it is vital that UN Ethiopia’s brief, but loaded statement be unpacked for it fits perfectly with a pattern of irresponsible statements on the part of various UN agencies based in Addis Ababa with regards to developments in the course of the genocidal war on Tigray. While UN Ethiopia finds the failure of aid trucks to return “concerning”, there is absolutely zero evidence that it had made any attempts at finding out why the trucks actually failed to return. UN Ethiopia does have local representatives here in Tigray and it seems only logical that those representatives on the ground could and should have been the first line of contact so as to find out the facts surrounding the trucks. Furthermore, a more direct route would have been to contact the drivers themselves. Of course, that would have been a tall feat, given the total communications blackout imposed on the entire Tigray region by the Abiy Ahmed government. In short, before making a loaded statement on twitter, UN Ethiopia could and should have made attempts at discovering the facts of the case. Sadly, UN Ethiopia’s statement is indicative of a reflexive propensity to downplay the humanitarian tragedy unfolding here in Tigray by focusing on marginal issues. It has become apparent that placating the Abiy government at the expense of the people of Tigray is the preferred modus operandi of UN officials in Addis Ababa. It is to be recalled that a high-level UN representative in Addis was recorded back in March downplaying the prevalence of sexual violence and the weaponization of rape in Tigray, thereby wittingly or unwittingly amplifying the Abiy government’s propaganda as it sought to whitewash its criminal acts.
A careful examination of the issue surrounding the trucks would have forced UN officials in Addis to focus single-mindedly on the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe in Tigray. The complete blockade of Tigray effected by the Abiy Ahmed government continues to choke the people of Tigray. Aside from the normal movement of goods and services, including fuel, the blockade has prevented much-needed humanitarian aid from reaching people so desperate for aid that many have begun to perish due to hunger. It, therefore, defies logic and commonsense that there would be intentional attempts on the part of the Government of Tigray at preventing trucks that actually transport much-needed humanitarian aid, without which the vast majority of our people would be condemned to death by hunger. Instead of delving into why the drivers remain stranded in Tigray with a view to offering a satisfactory resolution to the crisis, UN Ethiopia seems to have decided to cosplay as an armchair critic.
The fact of the matter is that most of the trucks are stranded here for reasons that have to do with the consequences of the siege on Tigray. That most of the trucks have not returned is intelligible only in the context of the Abiy Ahmed government’s deliberate obstruction of aid delivery by putting in place a series of frustrating roadblocks along the way. In contrast to UN Ethiopia’s insinuation, the following are the most important factors behind the trucks being stranded here in Tigray:
- Lack of fuel: the truck drivers are provided with fuel enough to last the duration of their one-way trip to Tigray. They are not provided reserve fuel that is customary on such trips. Since the siege imposed on Tigray has created severe fuel shortage, those truckers are also suffering the consequences of this inhumane siege.
- Incessant harassment: harassing truck drivers going into and out of Tigray has become second nature to federal security and military institutions as well as their local affiliates. Consequently, truck drivers complain of violent inspections at every checkpoint manned by the military and local security officials outside Tigray so much so that they cannot countenance another encounter with these entities. Absent security guarantees—such guarantees are hard to come by, given the source of insecurity are the very institutions entrusted with providing security in the first place—it is understandable that truck drivers are unwilling to leave Tigray.
- Unexpected and unexplained delays in Afar: related to the incessant harassment mentioned above, truckers are also stranded for weeks and months in the neighboring Afar region. On account of the lack of adequate security guarantees and inexplicable delays on the way to their destination, truckers are unwilling to venture out of Tigray.
- Paucity of cash: the suspension of banking services throughout Tigray along with the resulting cash shortage means that truck drivers must move with little to no cash. Understandably, these long-haul truckers are reluctant to return to their origins.
It should be clear that the UN hires private trucks to transport humanitarian aid end-to-end. This formal contractual arrangement has nothing to do with the Government of Tigray. That being said, despite the enormity of the humanitarian tragedy unfolding in Tigray and the challenges of dealing with multifaceted crises, the Government of Tigray stands ready to extend the necessary cooperation in facilitating the timely arrival and departure of trucks transporting life-saving humanitarian aid. In return, we expect our partners in the humanitarian community, including UN Ethiopia to focus more on the total blockade imposed on Tigray by the Abiy government responsible for the trucks being stranded in Tigray than on what appears to be an attempt to exact a pound of flesh demanded by the very government responsible for the crisis in the first place.
Tigray External Affairs Office (TEOA)