Aid groups halt work in northwest Tigray after deadly strike: UN

The UN says humanitarian partners suspended activities due to the ‘ongoing threats of drone strikes’ after dozens were killed in an air attack.

Survivors of an air strike by Ethiopian government forces receive treatment at the Shire Shul General hospital
Survivors of an air attack by Ethiopian government forces receive treatment at the Shire Shul General Hospital in the town of Dedebit, northern region of Tigray, Ethiopia January 8, 2022 [Reuters]

Aid agencies have suspended their work in part of Ethiopia’s Tigray region after a deadly air attack on a camp for people displaced by the war, the United Nations’ emergency response agency has said.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a statement to the AFP news agency on Sunday that the attack in the town of Dedebit in northwestern Tigray had “caused scores of civilian casualties including deaths”, according to its preliminary information.

“Humanitarian partners suspended activities in the area due to the ongoing threats of drone strikes,” it said.

Aid workers and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) said on Saturday that the attack had killed 56 people. It was not possible to independently verify the claims because access to war-hit Tigray is restricted and it remains under a communications blackout.

The conflict erupted in November 2020 between the federal government and the TPLF, which dominated Ethiopian politics for nearly 30 years before Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to power in 2018.

The Tigray region is one of the 10 semi-autonomous federal states organised along ethnic lines in Ethiopia, and home mostly to the Tigrayan people who make up about 6 percent of Ethiopia’s population of more than 110 million.

Survivors of an air strike by Ethiopian government forces receive treatment at the Shire Shul General hospital in the town of Dedebit in northern region of Tigray, EthiopiaSurvivors of an air attack by Ethiopian government forces receive treatment at the Shire Shul General Hospital in the town of Dedebit in the northern region of Tigray, Ethiopia January 8, 2022 [Reuters]

Air raids on Tigray have continued, while the region is also under a communications blackout and what the UN has described as a de facto aid blockade.

The air attack took place hours after the Ethiopian government on Friday announced an amnesty for several senior officials from the TPLF and other high-profile opposition leaders in a bid to foster “national reconciliation”.

Tigray health system warning

OCHA said the lack of essential supplies, especially medical supplies and fuel, was “severely disrupting the response to the injured, and [has] led to the nearly total collapse of the health system in Tigray”.

“The intensification of air strikes is alarming, and we once again remind all parties to the conflict to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law,” it said.

Before the latest attack, at least 146 people have been killed and 213 injured in air raids in Tigray since October 18, according to a document prepared by aid agencies and shared with Reuters news agency this week.

The ongoing conflict has killed tens of thousands of people and been marked by a litany of abuses, including massacres and rape.

About 400,000 people are facing famine in Tigray, and millions need food aid across northern Ethiopia as a result of the war.

Source: News Agencies