Eritrean refugee children play in the Hitsats refugee camp in Tigray region near the Eritrean border. Picture: Tiksa Negeri/Reuters

Addis Abeba, November 11/2020 – In a statement sent to Addis Standard, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) said it is “extremely concerned about the humanitarian implications of escalating violence in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, where over two million people are already in need of humanitarian assistance.” This include 96,000 refugees and 100,000 internally displaced people.

“The IRC are calling for immediate deescalation by all parties involved to ensure humanitarian services can continue unfettered,” the statement said.

 IRC also cautioned that further clashes could lead to “massive loss of lives, prolonged displacement, disease outbreaks and no access to social services for the most vulnerable populations, particularly those living in refugee camps. Ethiopia is already reeling from a year of multiple humanitarian disasters.”

George Readings, IRC Lead Global Crisis Analyst, said, “an escalation of violence in the Tigray region could have a devastating impact on the people we serve. We are currently supporting 90,000 refugees in four camps in Tigray and are concerned about disruptions to essential water, sanitation and hygiene services and the potential need for life saving emergency assistance if violence escalates.  

“With communications, transport services and networks down, our operations have already been affected. We’ve had to relocate staff from one of our camps and we only have one month of fuel left to run water pumps for 90,000 refugees in Tigray. We’re hoping tensions don’t escalate but are looking at ways to adapt our programming to ensure continuation of services to the most vulnerable. “

Experts have warned of a potential 200,000 people fleeing over the border to Sudan, “which is already struggling under the strain of almost one million refugees and where flooding, locust outbreaks, poor economic conditions over several years and the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in 9.3 million people in need of humanitarian assistance,” IRC said.

“The IRC urges all parties to consider the humanitarian situation and de escalate immediately. The needs and safety of civilians, including refugees and displaced persons, must be prioritized.”

The IRC has been working in Ethiopia since 1999 implementing emergency and development work in rural communities and 21 refugee camps, reaching clients through programs in environmental health, health, education, child protection, economic recovery and development, and women’s protection and empowerment in six regions across the country.

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