Operational update on Ethiopia: Responding to the growing humanitarian needs amid increasingly difficult security conditions

Operational update on Ethiopia: Responding to the growing humanitarian needs amid increasingly difficult security conditions

Hundreds of thousands of displaced people throughout northern Ethiopia face increasing hardship, as fighting intensifies. At the same time, shifting frontlines and deteriorating security make access for vital humanitarian aid even more challenging.
Article 24 November 2021 Ethiopia

Urgent humanitarian needs continue to grow in Amhara and Afar regions, where newly displaced people desperately need assistance. Thousands of people arrive in urban areas with nothing. They sleep in overcrowded shelters, schools or even out in the open, relying on support from the host communities, who face acute shortages of water, food and power.

"It is a race against the clock to respond to some of the most urgent humanitarian needs," said Nicolas Von Arx, the Head of the ICRC delegation in Addis Ababa. "In more difficult to access areas we are often the only ones, together with the Ethiopian Red Cross, to bring assistance to communities, and the needs outstrip the capacity of humanitarian agencies to respond. As frontlines shift, we are constantly adapting our operations to reach these areas in consultation with regional and local stakeholders. We are also mindful of safety and security for our teams, keeping our footprint in the country under regular review".

Families were torn apart by the conflict and many remain without news of their closest relatives. "Until they can manage to reach out and know about their loved ones, many people are having sleepless nights," said Assefa, a volunteer from the Ethiopian Red Cross Society.

Healthcare in and around conflict areas is under an enormous strain. Medical staff face increasing personal insecurity while treating conflict-related casualties and trying to cover basic health needs for an uprooted and weakened population. In some areas, as a result, healthcare services are practically absent at the time when people need them the most.

In the Tigray region, providing much needed assistance has slowed dramatically as stocks are depleted and no movement of humanitarian supplies has been possible for several weeks. Combined with the difficulties of moving fuel and cash into Tigray for humanitarian operations, it is increasingly challenging to operate in a meaningful way.

During his visit to Ethiopia last month, ICRC President Peter Maurer stressed that "civilians must be spared and cared for, even amidst heavy fighting, and all sides in the conflict must respect International Humanitarian Law". As fighting intensifies, this remains a critical message.

Faced with these challenges, the ICRC maintains its countrywide response, seeking to bring much needed assistance and to restore family links in northern Ethiopia, and in other parts of the country, within the parameters of a fast-moving security situation.

Since the beginning of October, the ICRC has:

  • Assisted 312'000 people with household supplies, shelter and cash throughout the country, with a focus on northern Ethiopia.
  • Donated medical supplies and equipment to 5 hospitals for the treatment of 1'300 wounded patients.
  • Distributed food assistance to over 8'000 vulnerable people in Tigray, including detainees, children, pregnant and lactating mothers, people with disabilities as well as medical personnel.
  • Facilitated access to clean water to 68'000 people within Tigray and 70'000 in Amhara.
  • Helped over 12,000 people restore or maintain family links, facilitating exchange of news by family members.


For further information, please contact:
Fatima Sator, ICRC Addis Ababa, fsator@icrc.org M. +251944101700
Alyona Synenko, ICRC Nairobi, asynenko@icrc.org M. +254716897265