A disruption of communication in the region, rather than when Ethiopian forces withdrew and announced a unilateral ceasefire last week, has made it difficult to determine the situation in Tigray and its capital Mekelle. But on Saturday, CNN was able to reach its producer on the ground who reports that a blockade on Tigray by Ethiopian forces has continued since June 25.
All air travel to Mekelle has been stopped by the federal government and eyewitnesses tell CNN that the Amhara militia and Ethiopian government forces are blocking roads outside the city. There has been a complete outage of services there – power, telephone, internet – for almost a week, reports the CNN manufacturer.
Due to power outages, most homes do not have running water. Banks can not operate as their network is broken, so people do not have access to their money, the CNN manufacturer added.
UN spokesman Stéphane Dujarric said in a statement on Friday the World Food Program (WFP) had been able to resume some of its operations in Tigray after fighting stopped the emergency response.
“However, serious challenges are threatening the entire humanitarian response in the region,” he said. “Electricity and telecommunications remain interrupted and banking services are not yet available. While road access to and from Tigray for humanitarian supplies remains blocked, staff movement from Mekelle to Afar was possible yesterday. [Thursday], “Tha Dujarric.
“Meanwhile, five UNICEF trucks with water, sanitation, hygiene, health and food supplies are waiting to enter Tigray awaiting approval from the federal authorities. There are still no flights inside or outside the region even though the Ethiopian Government has announced today the possibility of “UNHAS flights resume this weekend,” he added.
With the destruction of the Tekke Bridge on Thursday, and the months-long destruction of farms and agricultural implements preventing farmers from planting, by Ethiopian, Eritrean and Amharic militia forces – as evidenced by the UN and other aid agencies – there are real concerns that the food will start to run out.
“The destruction and vandalism of vital infrastructure is seriously threatening the provision of humanitarian assistance to people in need and the access of civilians to essential services, goods and livelihoods. All parties to the conflict must protect civilians and civilian infrastructure in accordance with international humanitarian law.” The UN spokesman demanded after the destruction of the Tekke bridge.
The risk of starvation
There are extensive gas lines at several gas stations throughout the city that are still open, but most stations are already closed, the CNN manufacturer on the ground added.
“It is urgent to take additional staff and supplies to Tigray, restore electricity, telecoms and ensure the availability of money and fuel for the continuation of humanitarian operations,” a UN OCHA spokesman Tigray told CNN on Saturday.
In a statement ahead of the first open UN Security Council meeting on Tigray on Friday, Oxfam said: “There are now more than 350,000 people in a famine catastrophe in Ethiopia and this is a crucial time for farmers to plant crops. “If they are not safe to do so, it will continue the cycle of starvation and have deadly consequences for months to come.”
At the UN Security Council meeting on Friday, US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said: “Humanitarian workers are reporting that it is more difficult to reach desperate people in Tigray now than just being a weeks ago.actions, if verified, are not an indication of a humanitarian ceasefire, but of a siege.The Ethiopian government can and should prove this erroneous analysis by ensuring the unimpeded movement of humanitarian supplies, goods and personnel in and across Tigray “No, we do not believe that hundreds of thousands of people can die of starvation.”
Thomas-Greenfield said “a meaningful ceasefire agreement would affirm the reinstatement of forces and the full withdrawal of Eritrean troops and Amharic regional forces, this would facilitate unhindered humanitarian entry. It would not claim that the internal and external borders of “Ethiopia will not be changed by and contrary to the Constitution, and it must lay the groundwork for discussions towards political solutions to the crisis.”
A UN humanitarian official, Ramesh Rajasingham, told the Security Council: “The WFP has enough food for just 1 million people next month at McClellan. This is part of what we need 5.2 million people food aid.However, we have also almost run out of health, water, sanitation and other non-food packages.Only food does not avoid hunger.Water, hygiene and food equipment are essential in such a response.We also have many “We need to prevent a cholera outbreak or people dying from other communicable diseases.”
Ethiopia’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Friday that the international community should urge Tigrayan forces to respect the unilateral ceasefire, adding that Ethiopia could not afford to guarantee the protection of humanitarian operators in Tigray “unless the terrorist element in the region is obliged to accept the ceasefire “.
Meanwhile, Ethiopian Ambassador to the UN Taye Atske Selassie told the Security Council “the decision to suspend the military operation is hoped to create a favorable environment for humanitarian operations in Tigray and also pave the way for a comprehensive national dialogue”.
Additional reports from CNN field maker in Mekelle, Ethiopia, which we are not mentioning for their safety. Nima Elbagir reported from London. Richard Roth reported from New York. Sarah Dean wrote in London.