By Spy Uganda Correspondent
Ethiopia: The European Union(EU) is currently withholding millions of euros in budget support to Ethiopia over the Tigray conflicts and humanitarian organizations are increasingly worried about living conditions for the survivors of the conflict that have claimed hundreds of lives and displaced thousands.
Among the funders that have since halted its support include Brussels that is withholding nearly 90 million euros ($109 million).
An EU spokesperson, Eric Mamer confirmed that under the current circumstances, the EU is not in a position to deliver budget support as foreseen. “We need to see certain conditions fulfilled by the Government of Ethiopia for EU Budget Support to resume,” he said in a statement.
Some of the conditions include: Granting full humanitarian access for relief workers, access for civilians seeking refuge in neighbouring countries, an end to ethnically targeted measures and hate speech, and restoring communication lines and media access in the Tigray region.
Telecommunications are shut down. Organizations can only speculate about the extent of casualties and material damage after clashes between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and federal forces
The UN Security Council on Monday held an informal meeting on the humanitarian situation in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, where the majority of humanitarian organizations are not allowed to enter.
A humanitarian crisis is unfolding on such a scale that organizations are afraid of what they will find once allowed in. Reports about civilian casualties are becoming more frequent, contradicting claims by both the TPLF and the government that no harm has been caused to civilians.
The UN’s humanitarian body is preparing for an estimated 1.1 million people who are in need of humanitarian assistance, in addition to the 600,000 people who were already depending on food aid. Hundreds of thousands are believed to be internally displaced, and food rations have run out.
So far, almost no humanitarian access has been granted despite a November agreement between the Ethiopian government and UN agencies allowing aid into government-controlled areas of Tigray.
Early in December, four UN staff members were shot at by federal forces during an assessment visit. The government said this occurred after the staff broke through two checkpoints leading up to a refugee camp.
This incident “highlights the complex situation we have now in Tigray and the need for us to have safe, unconditional and free access to the area to make sure that we can assist people there,” according to Saviano Abreu, a spokesperson for the UN’s humanitarian coordination office (OCHA)
Negotiations are still underway between the UN, the government and other humanitarian actors, but it’s unlikely that unfettered access will be granted in the near future.
“This agreement says the UN, and other organizations who are taking care of refugees, have unlimited access to this region,” explained Chris Melzer, the UNHCR spokesperson in Ethiopia.
In reality, the agreement granted access in areas controlled by the federal army, and “only when the government allows that every single step. Ethiopia is a host country, we are guests here, and of course, we will respect the law of Ethiopia. But we really hope that the government of Ethiopia also sees the need to help these people in the Tigray region,” Chris Melzer stressed.
Hundreds of Eritrean refugees have fled camps in the region and were able to escape to Addis Ababa or Gondar. But on Friday the government said it is “safely returning refugees to their respective camps,” providing assurance that food aid was on its way.