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In this northern region of Ethiopia, violence against civilians has prevailed since late 2020 when the government ordered a military offensive against the Tigray People's Liberation Front.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) on Wednesday warned that the unpredictable and volatile security situation in Ethiopia's Tigray region challenges the continuing scale-up of relief operations, planned to reach all people in need.
The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the challenges, with victims living in cramped quarters for the displaced in the regional capital of Mekelle. With the tight living conditions, there is insufficient isolation to mitigate a large-scale outbreak of COVID-19.
Health challenges include the lack of essential medicines, for mobile health and nutrition teams, and the lack of medical equipment, including oxygen cylinders in the Shire, as well as fuel shortages for referral and ambulance services. Heavy rains and insecurity delay shelter and non-food support for the displaced.
"Food distribution remains the main component of the emergency response," OCHOA recalled. As of April 28, over 19,000 metric tons of food have been distributed to some 1.1 million people in 35 districts.
Tigray is a region in northern Ethiopia inhabited by over 4.5 million people of predominantly Christian faith. In late 2020, Ethiopia's Prime Minister ordered a military offensive against areas controlled by the Tigray People's Liberation Front, triggering an escalation of violence that has displaced thousands of people into Sudan.
It's 6 months today since conflict in Tigray, Ethiopia, broke out.
Violence has displaced 1 million. 62,000 refugees. Acute lack of water, food, electricity, telecoms and hope in too many places.
"The ongoing conflict is terrorizing civilians in the region, and witness reports of the atrocities are horrifying... Artillery strikes have occurred on populated areas, and civilians are being deliberately targeted for extrajudicial killings and widespread looting," the American Council for Law and Justice (ACLJ) recalled.
"Reports also indicate that soldiers were going house to house, dragging people out of their homes and massacring residents... in addition to these mass killings, rape is being used as a weapon against the people of Tigray," it added.
Two referral hospitals set up in Adigrat and Axum have psychosocial services for survivors of gender-based violence. The UN Population Fund has three health kits for the clinical management of rape.
The UN humanitarians and partners distribute 19 sexual and reproductive health kits to eight hospitals and health facilities in three rural areas.