Humanitarian Situation in the Tigray Region of Northern Ethiopia

The conflict between the government of Ethiopia and the northern region of Tigray began on 4 November 2020 following months of tension. After the federal government postponed Ethiopia's general elections in August 2020 because of concern with the coronavirus (COVID-19), the Tigray region went ahead with its own regional elections in September 2020. The Ethiopian government responded by slashing support to Tigray and appointing a new general to take control of the Northern command. This, in turn, was rejected by the main political party in the region, the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

After accusing the TPLF of attacking an Ethiopian National Defense Forces base, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia launched a military campaign against the region. Thousands of people have reportedly died as a result of the fighting and over 50,000 refugees have fled from Tigray into Sudan. The flow of refugees is growing each day and thousands more have been internally displaced.

In addition resolving the political conflict, it is also necessary to address the humanitarian aspects of the conflict that have left refugees in Eritrea without access to food, water and health services, which is further complicated by COVID-19 pandemic.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees recently stressed the need for “swift action” to restore safe access to refugee camps in Eritrea have been cut off from supplies and services during the conflict for more than two months in order to “save thousands of lives at risk.” These refugees  have run our of fuel for their water pumps, leaving them to fetch water from a nearby creek that has resulted in diarrhea like illnesses.

Some 96,000 Eritrean refugees registered in four camps in the Tigray region are dependent on the World Food Programme (WFP) for survival. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has also received allegations international law and human rights violations including artillery strikes on populated areas, the deliberate targeting of civilians, extrajudicial killings and widespread looting.

The Security Council has not engaged actively on the Tigray crisis.  While some members would like the Council to play a more active role, others are concerned that this could interfere with regional efforts to resolve the conflict.