The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said Tuesday it has regained access to two refugee camps in Ethiopia’s Tigray region and found Eritrean refugees “in desperate need of supplies and services.”
“UNHCR led the first humanitarian mission to Mai Aini and Adi Harush refugee camps since the start of the conflict in November, after being granted one-time access by the Ethiopian authorities to conduct a needs assessment,” said spokesman Babar Baloch.
He urged authorities to restore safe access to other camps and said aid is urgently needed for tens of thousands of Eritrean refugees in northern Ethiopia as they “were cut off from any supplies and services for more than two months.”
“The only assistance refugees received since the start of the conflict was a one-time food distribution conducted by the World Food Programme (WFP) almost a month ago,” according to Baloch, who said refugees have told UNHCR’s representatives they continue to face safety concerns, as “armed gangs roam the camps at night stealing and looting.”
Baloch said the UNHCR has not had any access to the Shimelba and Hitsats camps in northern Tigray since November and noted the agency has received reports of “significant damage to those camps and indications that many refugees have fled in search of safety and food.”
Furthermore, Baloch revealed that 5,000 Eritrean refugees have made their way to the town of Shire and “are living in dire conditions, many sleeping in an open field on the outskirts of the town, with no water and no food.”
He reiterated the UN’s demand for “full and unimpeded access to all refugees in the Tigray region,” stressing UNHCR’s commitment to work with the Ethiopian government to seek solutions to the humanitarian crisis.
“We stress again that swift action to restore safe access is needed now to save thousands of lives at risk,” he said.