UN Secretary-General António Guterres has welcomed Ethiopia’s commitment at ensuring aid workers can access the war-ravaged Tigray region.
The development comes a day after Guterres and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed discussed extremely concerning the humanitarian situation in the northern province.
Stephane Dujarric, spokesperson for Secretary-General, said this while briefing correspondents at the UN headquarters on Friday in New York, on the situation in Ethiopia.
Dujarric said nine months of brutal fighting between federal forces and regional troops had displaced nearly two million people while 400,000 are in famine, with another 1.8 million not far behind.
“The secretary-general welcomed the Prime Minister’s assurances that the Government of Ethiopia will facilitate immediate access to Tigray for humanitarian organisations.
“He also welcomed the Prime Minister’s commitment that essential basic services, including power and communications, will resume swiftly,’’ the spokesperson said.
Last week, the Ethiopian government declared a unilateral ceasefire and the UN has been appealing for resupplies of aid and fuel to be allowed in.
The UN’s Humanitarian Affairs Office, this week reported that lack of fuel had affected transportation of emergency relief and commercial supplies into Tigray and water access at displacement camps in the regional capital, Mekelle.
Commercial flights to and from the city which had been halted on June 23 are still suspended.
“The secretary-general also acknowledged the Government’s pledge to use the ceasefire to facilitate urgent humanitarian assistance, including regular UN humanitarian flights into Tigray, as well as support for agricultural activities.
“The secretary-general reiterates his call that all parties must meet their obligations to protect civilians, provide unimpeded humanitarian access and to observe international humanitarian law,” he said.
Speaking on Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), Dujarric said Lynn Hastings, the Humanitarian Coordinator for the OPT, said she visited Gaza on Thursday to see what progress had been made nine weeks since the beginning of hostilities with Israel.
Unfortunately, she said since the beginning of the escalation on May 10, entry of goods through Kerem Shalom had been limited to food, medical supplies, fuel, fodder, a few agricultural inputs, and some other items.
“She called for a return to the regular and predictable entry of goods into Gaza.
“We currently estimate that 250,000 people are still without regular access to piped water, and that 185,000 are relying on unsafe water sources or paying higher prices for bottled water.
“Hastings urged Israel to ease the restrictions on the movement of goods and people to and from Gaza, with the goal of ultimately lifting them.
“Only by fully lifting the debilitating closures can we hope to sustainably resolve the humanitarian crisis and contribute to longer term stability,’’ Dujarric quoted Hastings, as saying.
On Afghanistan, he said UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported that more than 1.4 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine arrived today (Friday) in Afghanistan.
“Donated by the United States to COVAX, the doses were delivered through the COVAX Facility’s dose-sharing scheme to the Government of Afghanistan.
“UNICEF noted that this is the first of two vaccine consignments to arrive this month, bringing the total donation to around 3.3 million doses.
“Also, today, the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned that humanitarian needs in Afghanistan are enormous and complex.
“WHO said that the worsening security situation has led to a sharp increase in civilian casualties,’’ he said.