By Mihret G Kristos @MercyG_kirstos
Addis Abeba – Hundreds of thousands of IDPs in the Tigray region have staged massive protests in major cities of the region, calling on NGOs and the government to facilitate resumption of suspended humanitarian aid and their safe return to home.
The protests were held in the capital Mekelle, Adigrat, Shire, Abyi Adi, and other cities of the region starting early Tuesday.
According to the IDPs, the protests are aimed to draw attention to the protracted delay to restore the status quo in Tigray. Among other issues, the IDPs called for immediate withdrawal of non-ENDF forces from occupied parts of Tigray according to the Pretoria peace agreement.
Yibrah Yemane, one of the coordinators of the protest which was held in Mekelle, told Addis Standard that the protesters demanded quick solutions from the federal government, interim administration of Tigray, and NGOs for the urgent questions of IDPs.
“Following the suspension of humanitarian aid, IDPs have become vulnerable to hunger and different diseases,” said Yibrah.
In Mekelle, the protesters made their destination to the office of the interim regional president where legal adviser of the president Amanuel Aseffa assured the IDPs that their demands are right, and the interim administration is working with the federal government to provide the solutions, according to Yibrah.
Melakeselam Kiros, an IDP from Shire, and one of the coordinators of the demonstration in the city told Addis Standard that IDPs are dying from hunger and different diseases in the absence of humanitarian aid and medical treatments.
“It has been eight months since we received humanitarian aid, and we are dying because of that. We are protesting to raise our voices demanding the resumption of suspended aid. We want to return home, and as such urge the federal government to withdraw non-ENDF forces from our areas,” said Melakeselam.
Both the coordinators said that they demand for the investigation of the theft of humanitarian aid to be concluded without further delay and for the culprits to be held accountable.
Millions remain displaced
Tigray region saw one of the harshest displacement patterns following the outbreak of the atrocious war in November 2020, leaving more than two million people internally displaced as early into the war as 2021.
More than 70, 000 people have crossed the border into Sudan, especially from western Tigray, where, according to Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International report, they faced “relentless campaign of ethnic cleansing by security forces from the neighboring Amhara region and their allies.”
Furthermore a report in March by the US government has designated that “members of the Amhara forces also committed the crime against humanity of deportation or forcible transfer and committed ethnic cleansing through their treatment of Tigrayans in western Tigray.”
Although a permanent cessation of hostilities agreement was signed between the federal government and the TPLF in November last year, and the agreement’s article 5 mandated the former to “facilitate the return and reintegration of internally displaced persons and refugees whenever the security situation permits.”
Despite improvements in various humanitarian areas, the issue of IDPs, compounded with lack of adequate aid, remained a challenge to the newly established Tigray Interim Administration.
As recently as April this year, ten of thousands of Tigrayan civilians were forcibly displaced from ten woredas in Western Tigray alone, which remains under the occupation of Amhara Forces.
On 01 May, AP reported quoting humanitarian workers that WFP, the UN agency which is responsible for delivering food from the UN and other partners to Tigray, has suspended aid deliveries to the Tigray region pending internal investigation into the theft of food meant for hungry people.
WFP said in a statement on 03 May, that it “immediately launched a comprehensive investigation upon learning of the food diversion reports and has taken swift action to establish all the facts and further strengthen our controls”, adding that it “has paused food distributions in Tigray, which will not resume until WFP can ensure that vital aid will reach its intended recipients”.
USAID, the US Agency for International Development also announced on 03 May that it has made “the difficult decision to pause all USAID-supported food assistance in the Tigray region until further notice”.
Subsequently, the Tigray region Interim Administration (IA) has announced the establishment of a committee to conduct investigation into the aid theft that led to international aid agencies suspend their operation in the region.
On 10 May, Addis Standard reported that at least six individuals have reportedly perished only in one week due to hunger-related health complications, while 421 households are facing risks in the Amdi Weyane, Debre Hayla Kebele, Samre Woreda, a mere 40 kilometers from the capital Mekele, following the suspension of humanitarian aid to Tigray region.
On 19 May, the Ethiopian Civil Society Organizations Council (ECSOC) said it is “following with deep concern the recent suspension by the WFP and USAID of humanitarian food support for the people in need in the Tigray region and calls for the resumption of the same while calling for ensuring accountability on the matter”.
“Considering the dire humanitarian situation of the people in need in Tigray, the Ethiopian Civil Society Organizations Council would like to state that as a matter of principle and in the context where millions of people need urgent food support, the continued suspension of the food aid would do more damage than good”. AS