Ethiopia: ICRC President calls for humanity as fighting intensifies
Addis Ababa/Geneva (ICRC) – The President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Peter Maurer, called on parties to the conflict to show humanity as fighting intensifies in northern Ethiopia, deepening the suffering of families who have endured nearly one year of war.
"The conflict in Tigray and surrounding regions of northern Ethiopia has undermined the supply of basic commodities and crippled the health system, depriving people of the essentials they need to survive," Mr Maurer said at the end of a three-day visit to the country. "The most vulnerable families can't put food on the table or reach a medical facility. They are in urgent need of assistance and lives are at risk. Many may face long-term health consequences."
Hundreds of thousands of people displaced by the fighting live in dire conditions. They arrive in urban areas with nothing but their clothes, sleep in overcrowded shelters, schools or out in the open. There is an acute shortage of water, food, cash, fuel and power.
The ICRC is working to support civilians affected by conflict and violence across the country. However, the delivery of humanitarian assistance has been seriously hampered by fighting, insecurity and access constraints. In some of the most conflict-affected areas, critical medical supplies are not getting through, putting hospitals and medical centres under tremendous strain.
During his trip Mr Maurer met with the President of Ethiopia, Sahle-Work Zewde, and also the Deputy Prime Minister, Demeke Mekonnen, to discuss pragmatic steps to facilitate and increase ICRC's response to these escalating humanitarian needs. Mr Maurer also met with officials at the African Union and the leadership team of the Ethiopian Red Cross Society (ERCS), a key partner in the provision of humanitarian assistance.
"Neutral, independent, humanitarian action is vital, and delivery of urgent humanitarian aid must be prioritized and facilitated by parties to the conflict, even during – or rather especially during – periods of intense fighting," Mr Maurer said. "All parties to this conflict have the responsibility to ensure civilians are spared and cared for, as well as those wounded or captured from all sides."
Together, the ICRC and the ERCS provided supplies enabling medical treatment and services for more than 200,000 people, as well as shelter, household and hygiene items for over 300,000 people in Ethiopia this year. The ICRC and ERCS also distributed seeds, fertilizer and water to 100,000 people earlier this year to help people provide food for themselves. The ICRC and ERCS have also been working to reconnect separated families, with 28,000 phone calls and 13,000 messages among family members so far this year.