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Agencies suspend Tigray aid as ‘scores’ are killed due to airstrikes 

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An armoured vehicle is left abandoned on a road in Tigray, Ethiopia, on July 20, 2021.

Recent airstrikes on camps for internally displaced persons and refugees in Tigray, northern Ethiopia, have reportedly killed scores of civilians, including children, and left many more injured. 

On Sunday, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) told reporters that some aid agencies were suspending operations in an area where a deadly air strike hit a camp for displaced people.  

Humanitarian partners suspended activities in the area due to the ongoing threats of drone strikes“, the agency explained, adding that some partners continued to operate. 

According to the agency, the latest attack happened on Friday, at midnight, in the town of Dedebit, and “caused scores of civilian casualties including deaths”.  

Agencies suspend Tigray aid as ‘scores’ are killed due to airstrikes 

A family from Samre, in south-western Tigray, walked for two days to reach a camp for displaced people in Mekelle., by © UNOCHA/Saviano Abreu

The rebel Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) said the attack had killed 56 people, while an official at the region’s main hospital in the capital Mekele reported 55 dead and 126 injured. 

Despite reports that humanitarians have suspended activities in the area, OCHA stressed on Monday that some partners were continuing to operate around Dedebit, amid an ongoing threat of drone strikes. 

Because of security and access issues, OCHA has not been able to verify the number of casualties.  


In another statement released on Sunday, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) expressed outrage at the attack and another one that happened two days before, on 5 January.  

The agency stressed that camps for refugees and internally displaced people, including schools and other essential facilities, are civilian facilities. Failing to respect and protect these areas by combatants, may constitute a violation of international humanitarian law.  

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According to UNICEF, acts of violence, including grave violations against children, continue to be perpetrated across northern Ethiopia by all parties to the conflict.   

14-month war 

It has now been 14 months since clashes erupted between federal Government troops and forces loyal to the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front. 

Renewing its call for an immediate cessation of hostilities, UNICEF urged all parties to build on the initial signs of progress of the past several weeks.  

In December, the Ethiopian Government announced that the National Defence Force would pause any further advance, and Tigrayan forces stated they had withdrawn from neighbouring Afar and Amhara regions, back into Tigray.  

Agencies suspend Tigray aid as ‘scores’ are killed due to airstrikes 

Clashes in Tigray, Afar and Amhara in northern Ethiopia, have left to a surge in humanitarian needs., by IFRC

At the time, UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, urged the warring sides to seize the opportunity to bring an end to more than a year of fighting.  

Humanitarian crisis 

Meanwhile, a wider humanitarian crisis continues to wreak havoc in parts of Ethiopia. Some 5.2 million people currently need help in the northern regions of Tigray, Amhara and Afar. 

Amidst allegations of widespread human rights abuses, thousands are feared killed as more than two million have been forced to flee their homes. 

And over the past few months, killings, looting and destruction of health centres and farming infrastructure, including irrigation systems that are vital to production, have caused humanitarian needs to surge. 

According to UN humanitarians, the situation in the northern part of the country remains unpredictable and volatile. 

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