High Time For Int'l Partners To Support Humanitarian Needs and Reconstruction Efforts in Northern Ethiopia

Earlier this month, the National Disaster and Risk Management Commission in its  first quarterly performance report of the 2015 Ethiopian fiscal year to the Foreign Relations and Peace Affairs Standing Committee of the House of People’s Representatives (HPR) noted that 569,000 MT of relief food is required to reach out to the needy population in war ravaged regions of Tigray, Amhara and Afar. Commissioner Sheferaw Tekelemariam revealed that to date 149,000 MT of food has been purchased for distribution which is far less than the required amount.

In cooperation with international partner agencies including ICRC, WFP, UNICEF, the Federal Government of Ethiopia has been providing relief supplies to 450,000 needy populations in the three regions single handedly, facing budget constraints. While the number of the needy population exceeds the originally estimated level, the government has used more than half of the budget set for addressing the food needs of the population.

In its updates on humanitarian aid, the Government Communication Service said that consistent with the peace agreement signed in Pretoria, the Government of Ethiopia is ensuring the effective implementation of the peace agreement and exerting all efforts to deliver humanitarian assistance and restore basic services in the Tigray region. The delivery of humanitarian assistance to Tigray region is being undertaken through multiple corridors.

For instance, on 26 November, along the Kombolcha corridor, 11 WFP trucks arrived in Zata with 324 mt of food commodities and 11 trucks are on route carrying 302 mt of food commodities from Kombolcha to Zata.  Also, on 29 November, 54 WFP trucks with ,1, 946 mt of food commodities from Kombolcha arrived  at Ofla and Raya Alamata  in Southern Zone and were offloading.

And along the Semera corridor, on 26 November, 34 trucks confirmed arrival and offloading in Mekele as follows: 04 Logistics Cluster organized trucks carrying 77 mt of NFls, 28 WFP trucks with 1, 223 MT of food and 2 fuel tankers with 95, 272 Liters, adding that on 29 November, 140 CRS trucks has departed to Mekele.On the same day, UNHAS passenger flight from Addis to Mekele took place.

On the other hand, the government has also immediately embarked on restoration of basic services and reconstruction of power supply girds that were damaged in Northern Wollo, parts of Gondar, Alamata, Kobo and Korem following the peace agreement. These rehabilitation projects are already coming to fruition with the courage and tenacity exhibited by the technicians of Ethiopian Electric Utility staff operating round the clock.

As the water supply systems in various districts of the three regions were devastated, the Emergency Clean Water Provision and Special Support Desk Head, at the Ministry of Water and Energy said water purifying machine with a capacity of purifying 48 liters of water per second has now been readied for service in Shire city. Similarly potable water tankers and provision of water storage tanks have been distributed to the different districts in Tigray.

Given the huge number of affected people as a result of the conflict and drought on top of IDPs and refugees in the country, support from international partners and countries are highly required. The Ethiopian government is making relentless efforts to respond to humanitarian needs of affected people.

However, it is prudent to raise questions as to why international aid agencies are not responding to the humanitarian needs to the required level. The war has displaced more than two million citizens who are languishing in IDP camps across northern Ethiopia. Although the Government had started to repatriate hundreds and thousands of IDPs to their original homesteads, the task of resettling and rehabilitation the displaced people is quite demanding and cannot be accomplished only through the efforts of the Government. Although a considerable number of IDPs have been resettled in their communities in Northern Wollo Zone and other zones in northern Ethiopia, there is still a lot to be desired.

According to the latest report by OCHA over the week, addressing the humanitarian impact of multiple crises in pockets of the country, including conflict, drought, disease outbreaks and floods call for more resources. As of 17 November, the Mid-Year Review of the 2022 Ethiopia Humanitarian Response Plan totaling 3.3 billion US dollar, of which just 46.9 per cent was funded, and the needs continue to outpace the available funding. Humanitarian needs have drastically increased since January 2022, and the new needs are captured in the Mid-year Review of the 2022. This report clearly indicates that only less than half of the required fund is being expended for the relief programs across the country and mainly northern Ethiopia.

The Refugees and Returnees Service disclosed that the international partners and donor agencies are not adequately responding to the urgent needs of the refugees sheltered in camps in norther Ethiopia. Coupled with the relief and rehabilitation challenges facing the country, Ethiopia is also shouldering the responsibility of international refugees who are being hosted in the country.

 Tesfahune Gobezay,Refugee and Returnee Service Director General recently told ENA that international partners and countries are not providing enough support for the refugees that are being hosted in the different camps across the country. He noted that Ethiopia has been doing its best to provide support and protection for refugees despite its huge resource gaps.

The two-year war has indeed complicated the livelihood of refugees in the northern part of the country as they had to be resettled in safer parts. As of 31 March 2022, the Refugees and Returnees Service (RRS) and UNHCR have registered 844,589 refugees. Shortage of water supply systems and other services that are urgently needed by the refugees particularly in the northern part of the country is not being adequately addressed putting the livelihood of the refugees at risk and adding more burden on the government.

Entangled with drought and food shortage situations in some parts of the country including the conflict, the country is certainly depleting its budget set aside for development undertakings.

All told, international partners and countries’ support to humanitarian needs, particularly to the conflict affected people is far below the requirement. They are expected to bridge the huge gaps in humanitarian aid. Indeed, it high time that  international partners and countries mobilize resources to support the humanitarian needs and the efforts of the Ethiopian government in reconstruction and retoration of basic services for people who were affected by the conflict in Tigray, Amhara and Afar.

Ethiopian News Agency