UNFPA Ethiopia Response to the Tigray Crisis – Situation report (15-30 April 2021)


On November 4, 2020 simmering tensions between the federal government and the leadership of the northern Tigray region escalated into a military confrontation. Following the armed clashes, a sixmonth state of emergency with a law-enforcement operation was declared by the federal government, and a large-scale humanitarian crisis ensued with a surge of internally displaced persons and movement of refugees into neighboring countries. Despite the announcement of an official end to military operations on November 28, 2020, continued confrontations and insecurity persists across Tigray, Afar, and Amhara regions with significant impact on the safety and protection of civilians.

The unfettered access granted by the Federal Government on March 3, 2021 to humanitarian actors operating in the area notwithstanding, on-going clashes and restricted movement – particularly to remote rural areas – has severely limited partners’ capacity and availability to reach those most in need across large parts of the Tigray region. Nearly 6 months of conflict has resulted in about 1.7 million1 people internally displaced and widespread damage in health facilities and basic services, leaving 4.5 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. Armed conflict and intercommunal violence remain a critical concern across Ethiopia, from Tigray, to Benishangul Gumuz, to Oromia and Amhara regions. All of this is happening in a context where Ethiopia is faced with over 252,2792 COVID-19 cases as of April 26, 2021 with a severe socioeconomic impact, compounded by recurrent climate-related shocks such as floods and droughts, intercommunal conflicts and an alarming deterioration of the food security situation across the country.

Situation Overview

Nearly 6 months into the conflict, the persistent armed confrontations and the state of emergency in Tigray Region continue to drive large-scale displacement across the region, most notably through the north and northwest, and central zones of the region. Active hostilities across large parts of the region, general insecurity and recurrent road blocks among major cities continue to hold back the ability of partners to move and scale-up the response to those most in need in hard-to-reach rural areas. According to the Regional Bureau of Labor and Social Affairs (BOLSA), there are an estimated 1.7 million people displaced across the region with 4.5 million people currently estimated to be in need in Northern Ethiopia. The three towns hosting the largest number of IDPs are Shire, Adwa and Adigrat with 445, 309 IDPs, 129,524 and 100,168 IDPs7 , respectively. Shelter, Food and Nutrition and Protection are immediate concerns with the beginning of the rainy season and resulting in acute hunger rates due to multiple contributing factors8 , especially locust infestation, challenges with agricultural supply and planting, and the socioeconomic impact of the conflict. Despite the rally of humanitarian actors to respond across sectors, the humanitarian situation remains dire and the response so far is not commensurate with the needs of the conflict-affected population.

Though there is some progress, access to life-saving health services by the affected-populations remains limited. The health cluster indicates that 141 of the 198 assessed hospitals and health centers remain either partially or fully damaged. Health services in the IDP sites are still provided through the mobile health teams of INGOs where and when security permits, with reproductive and maternal health care or treatment for chronic illnesses almost non-existent . Referral systems are poor or absent, especially due to the looting of 70% of the ambulances in the region . According to HeRAMS, the lack of medical supplies (43%) and medical equipment (16%) due to the looting and vandalism of health facilities has left access to life-saving commodities highly inadequate, with critical shortages of essential drugs like antibiotics, family planning commodities or anti-retroviral therapy for HIV patients. According to the Minimum Initial Service Calculator for humanitarian settings, it is estimated that about 101,982 women are currently pregnant and 5,099 will experience complications with heightened risk of maternal mortality and morbidity in the coming months.

Looking at the impact of the conflict on the protection needs of vulnerable populations, a joint international statement released on 23 April, the Call to Action on Protection from Gender-based Violence in Emergencies (Call to Action on GBV) expressed its concerns about the persistent reports of gender-based violence, including sexual violence, in Tigray Region. The statement highlights the “challenges [for GBV survivors] in accessing safe shelter, health services, psychosocial support, case management, protection by law enforcement and the justice system generally” and calls for a prioritization of GBV prevention and response across humanitarian partners. Although largely underreported due to fears of stigma and retaliation, at least 22,500 survivors of sexual violence will seek clinical management of rape services15 in the coming months while only 29% of the health facilities are partially available to provide services in the region. Of particular concern is also the lack for comprehensive mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) to GBV survivors with only 7% of health facilities having the full capacity to provide psychosocial first aid. All of this amid multiple stressors impacting the country, from the COVID-19 pandemic to risks of cholera and other disease outbreaks, to intercommunal conflicts and social unrest across regions, to climate-related shocks, and the risk of famine.

Despite the initial challenges in humanitarian access, UNFPA is scaling up its response focusing on preventing and responding to gender-based violence, bridging protection, gender equality and MHPSS, and commitment to sexual and reproductive health and rights in Tigray, Afar and Amhara regions. Activities are being tailored to address the general interruption of SRH/GBV services to restore pre-crisis capacity through government health facilities and the humanitarian partners on the ground. More detailed information on UNFPA’s revised priority activities for upscaling the humanitarian response in the coming months are available at the Addendum – UNFPA’s Preparedness and Response Plan for the Tigray crisis issued on April 24, 2021.



Source: United Nations Population Fund


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