Tigray ceasefire: aid workers demand telecoms be restored

Humanitarian organisations in Ethiopia are demanding that phone lines and internet are restored to the troubled northern province of Tigray, warning that the ceasefire declared by Addis Ababa this week will only help alleviate famine if aid workers can operate safely.

Since the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) withdrew from Mekelle, Tigray’s capital, 월요일에, all telecommunications have been down, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha). Unicef said ENDF personnel had entered its office and dismantled crucial satellite equipment.

“This has put huge constraints on our ability to communicate,” said Hayat Abu-Saleh, spokesperson for Ocha, speaking from Mekelle during a brief period of satellite internet connection. “Telecommunications must be restored. We need access to fuel [과] cashflow to continue our humanitarian operations.”

Adele Khodr, Unicef’s representative in Ethiopia, said there was an urgent need for aid supplies to reach parts of Tigray that had not been accessible for months.

“We know that we have 33,000 children at high risk of morbidity and mortality, of being very severely sick and eventually dying. We need to reach those children as fast as possible," 그녀가 말했다. A lack of phone or internet, 하나, would hamper any aid effort.

“If we do not have telecommunication equipment, we cannot send people into the field and ensure their safety. It’s very simple," 그녀가 말했다.

Ethiopia’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, deployed federal troops in Tigray last November after attacks by Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) forces on army bases. 그때부터, the northern province has been locked in a deadly conflict, which has killed thousands and displaced more than two million people. The UN has said an estimated 350,000 people are now on the verge of famine.

이번 주 unilateral ceasefire declaration by the national government, which came as troops withdrew not only from Mekelle but several other nearby towns, was given a jubilant reception by residents.

But humanitarian organisations, while cautiously hopeful that it might allow workers to access areas that have long been inaccessible, are reserving judgment. There are fears among observers that Addis Ababa is planning a form of blockade on the province, a “containment strategy” that would seek to keep the province cut off and slowly deprive it of resources.

“For us, [the ceasefire declaration] is an important step but we need to see how this is operationalised,” said Khodr. “That is the most important thing. For example, we need to make sure all the roads are open.

“We need to make sure that humanitarian flights are allowed so that we can send supplies [to Tigray]. We also need to have the ceasefire coupled with the reconnection of the telecommunications – the internet and the telephone.”

The TPLF has rejected the ceasefire, vowing instead to reclaim “every square inch of territory” in Tigray.

Fisseha Tekle, 의 Amnesty International, said he feared that could bring it into fresh conflict with troops loyal to Tigray’s neighbouring Amhara region. “I think there will be more bloodshed and civilian casualties because those are very contentious areas,”그는 말했다.

Tekle also warned of the possibility of reprisal attacks amid the unrest. He remained uncertain of the potential for the ceasefire to help alleviate the suffering of Tigrayans.

“If it is a strict ceasefire that holds, it is going to be better for the people there, especially if it is accompanied by humanitarian access,” Tekle said, 첨가: “But in the absence of any information about that access, and in the face of the TPLF rejecting the ceasefire, the future looks more negative than optimistic.”

Gezahegn Kebede Gebrehana, director of Oxfam in Ethiopia, called on all parties in the conflict to “make effective use” of the ceasefire. “This is a crucial time for farmers to plant crops, and if they aren’t safe to do so, it will continue the cycle of hunger and have deadly consequences for months to come.

“Oxfam is calling on all parties to make effective use of the ceasefire, prioritise the safety of civilians, and to allow humanitarians to safely access those in urgent need,”그는 말했다.

적어도 11 aid workers – 가장 최근에 three employees of Médecins Sans Frontières – have been killed in Tigray during the eight-month conflict, while an airstrike on a market in Mekelle last week killed at least 64 사람들 and wounded about 180.

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