The United Nation Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and some 30 humanitarian allies on Tuesday launched an urgent appeal for $156m to meet the critical humanitarian needs of Ethiopian refugees fleeing the conflict in Tigray through the first half of 2021.
UNHCR spokesperson, Andrej Mahecic, while briefing the media on Tuesday, said that the appeal will also strengthen preparedness to receive refugees in other countries in the region, in case of further movements.
The Ethiopian military launched an offensive against the Tigray regional administration on 4 November after forces under the command of the Tigrayan administration launched an offensive against the Ethiopian National Defence Force (NDF).
According to the UNHCR, over the past six weeks, more than 52,000 refugees have fled the Tigray region into eastern Sudan.
“Despite the number of new arrivals dropping more recently to some 500 a day, aid agencies are dealing with a full-scale humanitarian emergency in a very remote area that has not seen such a large refugee influx in decades,” it said.
According to Mahecic, the Regional Refugee Preparedness and Response Plan for the Ethiopia Situation (Tigray) covers the period from November 2020 through to June 2021, and will reach up to 115,000 refugees and 22,000 people from host communities.
He added that it aims to support the governments of Sudan, Djibouti and Eritrea in maintaining and facilitating access to asylum and providing life-saving assistance to those who have been forced to flee.
“Funding will allow the implementation of critical activities, including registration and documentation, ensuring the civilian character of asylum, decongestion of sites in border areas and transferring refugees to new settlements,” Mahecic said.
Other priorities include providing food, health and education services, and support to groups with specific needs, such as women and girls at risk, unaccompanied minors, the disabled and the elderly.
The appeal also covers shelter and basic household items for refugees, and support for livelihood activities for refugees and the host community.
UNHCR said in eastern Sudan, from 14 November to date, more than 20,000 refugees have been relocated from the border areas to Um Rakuba camp, located some 75 kilometres from Gedaref town.
“As this site approaches capacity, UNHCR and partners will next week begin preparatory works on a new site located further inland, 136 kilometres away from Gedaref town,” Mahecic said.
He said so far only 30 per cent ($46m) of the required funds have been received by UNHCR and partners for the ongoing response.
“Responding agencies are grateful for contributions from both government and private sector supporters, that together with unearmarked contributions have allowed for a rapid response to initial needs. Partners are calling for urgent new contributions in order to meet the immense humanitarian needs in eastern Sudan and to ensure full preparedness throughout the region,” Mahecic said.
Cases of Sexual Violence Reported in Tigray – UN Envoy
The United Nations (UN) has revealed that serious allegations of sexual violence are being reported in Tigray, northern Ethiopia.
Pramila Pattern, a Mauritian-British barrister and UN envoy on sexual violence in conflict, said the reports included a high number of alleged rapes in Mekelle, Tigray’s capital.
Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) seized control of Mekelle from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) on 28 November after several weeks of fighting.
“There are also disturbing reports of individuals allegedly forced to rape members of their own family, under threats of imminent violence,” Ms Patten said in a statement.
“Some women have also reportedly been forced by military elements to have sex in exchange for basic commodities.
“While medical centres have indicated an increase in the demand for emergency contraception and testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) which is often an indicator of sexual violence in conflict.
“In addition, there are increasing reports of sexual violence against women and girls in a number of refugee camps.”
She called on those parties involved in the hostilities “to commit to a zero-tolerance policy for crimes of sexual violence”.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed launched a ground and air offensive on 4 November to oust the region’s ruling party, after its troops captured federal military bases.
He declared victory in Tigray after a month’s conflict, but fugitive TPLF leaders vowed to continue the fight.
COVID-19: Kenya Airways Suspends Flights to 2 European Hubs
Kenya Airways said on Friday it has suspended flights to two major European hubs following the introduction of new regulations as a result of a new variant of the coronavirus.
The Airline said the suspension of the flights is temporary.
The service suspension affects flights to France – Charles de Gaulle Airport and the Netherlands – Schiphol Airport through the month of February 2021.
“The temporary suspension is due to the new COVID-19 regulations in Europe that have resulted in depressed demand,” the airline said in a statement.
The airline expects to resume regular services to France on 3 March, 2021, and to the Netherlands on 7 March, 2021.
The airline said the resumption of the flights will be communicated. “We will keep customers updated in case of any changes to these resumption plans,” the airline added.
KQ said customers who had booked their flights to these two destinations, would be provided with alternative flight options.
15-Day COVID-19 Lockdown: Rwanda Distributes Food to Vulnerable Families
Following its decision to lockdown Kigali, its capital, the Rwanda authorities have begun the distribution of COVID-19 palliatives to vulnerable families in affected by the restriction.
News Central reports that the Rwandan government had, on Monday, imposed a 15-day lockdown on Kigali to curb the spread coronavirus after a surge in cases in the capital.
All movements outside homes require an approved permit from the police, except for essential service providers.
However, to help some 3,000 families – identified as the most vulnerable – cope with the lockdown the government is distributing food rations to households.
Local and international reports said that as of Thursday evening households have started receiving sacks of rice, maize flour and beans.
Some 3,000 families have been identified as the most vulnerable. The city has a population of about one million people.
There have been concerns that hundreds of thousands of residents who live hand to mouth would face hunger during the lockdown.
The authorities have assured that food will reach the most vulnerable, as well as poor Covid-19 patients being treated at home.
The rations were being delivered by volunteers who had tested negative before the programme started, city officials said.
A free phone line is available for requests from “those who want and merit the food aid to be delivered at their doorsteps”.
On Thursday Rwanda reported nine Covid-19 deaths, the highest daily fatalities so far, and 310 new cases.
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