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International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict
by UN News, MSF, agencies
June 2021
Statement by UN Secretary-General António Guterres:
Sexual violence in conflict is a cruel tactic of war, torture, terror and repression. It reverberates down generations, and threatens both human and international security.
In places affected by conflict, the turmoil caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has made it even more difficult to hold perpetrators of sexual violence to account.
At the same time, survivors face new obstacles to reporting crimes and accessing support services.
Even as we respond to the pandemic, we must investigate every case, and maintain essential services for every survivor. We cannot allow this already underreported crime to slip further into the shadows. Perpetrators must be punished.
Investment in recovery from the pandemic must tackle the root causes of sexual and gender-based violence.
On this International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict, let’s resolve to uphold the rights and meet the needs of all survivors, as we work to prevent and end these horrific crimes.
“Conflict-related sexual violence” refers to rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, forced pregnancy, forced abortion, enforced sterilization, forced marriage and any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity perpetrated against women, men, girls or boys that is directly or indirectly linked to a conflict. The term also encompasses trafficking in persons when committed in situations of conflict for the purpose of sexual violence or exploitation.
A consistent concern is that fear and cultural stigma converge to prevent the vast majority of survivors of conflict-related sexual violence from coming forward to report such violence. Practitioners in the field estimate that for each rape reported in connection with a conflict, 10 to 20 cases go undocumented.
UN Women expresses its grave concern at the continued use of sexual violence as a tactic of war, terrorism and political repression and calls on all parties to conflicts to commit to ceasing such acts.
Sexual violence in conflict disproportionately impacts women and girls and causes grave and lasting harm to survivors, their families and their communities, posing major barriers to peace and development.
The COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed women and girls in conflict and crisis settings to sexual violence and has exacerbated existing barriers to survivors’ access to multisectoral services and justice.
This makes our efforts to promote gender equality and achieve peace, as well as just and inclusive societies, all the more urgent and relevant.
The best way to address any type of human rights violation, including sexual violence in conflict, is to prevent it from happening in the first place, which is why it is crucial to address gender inequality as a root cause of this scourge.
As the world plans its recovery from the pandemic, we need to take an inclusive, intersectional and informed approach, one that recognizes that achieving durable peace and prosperous societies is not possible without women’s expertise, meaningful participation and leadership.
* UN Resolution (A/RES/69/293): On 19 June 2015, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 19 June of each year the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict, in order to raise awareness of the need to put an end to conflict-related sexual violence, to honour the victims and survivors of sexual violence around the world and to pay tribute to all those who have courageously devoted their lives to and lost their lives in standing up for the eradication of these crimes.

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UN agencies alarmed by looming famine in northern Ethiopia, call for urgent life-saving action
by UN News, ICRC, Reliefweb, agencies
7 Sep. 2021
Up to 7 million people face hunger crisis in northern Ethiopia. (WFP)
As conflict spills across Northern Ethiopia, forcing 300,000 people from their homes and 1.7 million into hunger in Afar and Amhara provinces, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has announced an unprecedented funding gap of $US426 million across its operation in Ethiopia and appealed for funds to meet the needs of up to 12 million people this year.
This month WFP started delivering emergency relief food assistance to communities in regions bordering on war-torn Tigray. WFP plans to reach 530,000 people in Afar and 250,000 people in Amhara, but will scale up as needs increase and if funding is received.
Meanwhile in Tigray, food security continues to worsen as WFP and its partners struggle to scale up and meet the urgent food needs of 5.2 million people across the region.
Food stocks held by WFP and partners had been almost entirely depleted until yesterday, when the first convoy for over two weeks entered the region. The WFP-led convoy of over 100 trucks carried 3,500 metric tons of food and other life-saving cargo – including fuel and health and shelter items.
“WFP welcomes the recent collaboration from federal and local authorities in Afar to ensure our convoy finally made it safely into Tigray,” said Michael Dunford WFP’s Regional Director for Eastern Africa. “But much more is needed and this momentum must be sustained otherwise we cannot hope to deliver enough food to save millions from falling deeper into hunger.”
WFP teams on the ground can now start delivering the next round of food distributions in Tigray. WFP will reach up to 3 million people in the region, an increase of 900,000 since it took over operations in two north-western Zone districts - Shire town and Tahtay Koraro - from its non-governmental food partners.
“Time is running out for millions across Northern Ethiopia and if we don’t get additional funding right away we will be forced to cut rations or, even worse, halt distributions to some 4 million people we’re trying to reach in Afar, Amhara and Tigray in the coming months,” added Dunford.
9 Aug. 2021
Statement by UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore on reported killing of hundreds of civilians, including children, in Afar, northern Ethiopia
“UNICEF is extremely alarmed by the reported killing of over 200 people, including more than 100 children, in attacks on displaced families sheltering at a health facility and a school in Afar region on Thursday, 5 August. Crucial food supplies were also reportedly destroyed in an area that is already seeing emergency levels of malnutrition and food insecurity.
“The intensification of fighting in Afar and other areas neighbouring Tigray, is disastrous for children. It follows months of armed conflict across Tigray that have placed some 400,000 people, including at least 160,000 children, in famine-like conditions.
Four million people are in crisis or emergency levels of food insecurity in Tigray and adjoining regions of Afar and Amhara. More than 100,000 have been newly displaced by the recent fighting, adding to the 2 million people already uprooted from their homes.
“UNICEF estimates a 10-fold increase in the number of children who will suffer from life-threatening malnutrition in Tigray over the next 12 months. The food security and nutrition crisis is taking place amid extensive, systematic destruction of health and other services that children and communities rely on for survival.
In partnership with Regional Bureaus and humanitarian partners, UNICEF is deploying emergency supplies and mobile health and nutrition teams across northern Ethiopia to provide urgent assistance.
“The humanitarian catastrophe spreading across northern Ethiopia is being driven by armed conflict and can only be resolved by the parties to the conflict. UNICEF calls on all parties to end the fighting and to implement an immediate humanitarian ceasefire. Above all, we call on all parties to do everything in their power to protect children from harm.”
June 2021
UN agencies concerned by looming famine in northern Ethiopia, call for urgent life-saving action to avert it.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and UNICEF call for urgent action to address the dramatic acute food insecurity in northern Ethiopia. The three agencies are particularly concerned about the situation in Tigray region where the risk of famine is imminent, unless food, livelihood assistance and other life-saving interventions continue to be scaled-up, unimpeded access is guaranteed, and hostilities cease.
The call came in response to the latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis, released today. The IPC is a global, multi-partner initiative - comprised of 15 UN agencies, regional organisations, and international non-governmental organisations - that facilitates improved decision-making through the provision of consensus-based food insecurity and malnutrition analysis.
According to the report, over 350,000 people are already facing catastrophic conditions (IPC 5, Catastrophe) in Tigray region. This is the highest number of people classified in IPC 5 Catastrophe in a single country in the last decade.
Over 60 per cent of the population, more than 5.5 million people, grapple with high levels of acute food insecurity (IPC3-5) in Tigray and the neighbouring zones of Amhara and Afar. Of these, 2 million people are in Emergency level of acute food insecurity (IPC 4) and without urgent action could quickly slide into starvation.
The severity of acute food insecurity is expected to increase through September, particularly in Tigray, with over 400,000 people projected to face catastrophic conditions (IPC 5, Catastrophe) without urgent and unhindered aid.
The UN agencies are particularly concerned by the risk of famine in Tigray if conflict escalates and humanitarian assistance is significantly hampered. The lack of reliable and comprehensive data on people’s food security situation in western Tigray is also deeply worrying.
“Rural communities in northern Ethiopia have been particularly affected by the conflict. Many farms have been destroyed and productive assets such as seeds and livestock lost,” said FAO Director-General QU Dongyu.
“It is imperative that we help these communities keep their families fed, and support local food production, paving the way for a faster recovery. But to help people on the brink of famine, we need resources and access – both of which remain a problem.”
“The brutal reality for our staff in Tigray is that for every family we reach with life-saving food, there are countless more, especially in rural areas, whom we cannot reach,” said WFP Executive Director, David Beasley.
“We have appealed for humanitarian access but are still being blocked by armed groups. The ability of people in Tigray to access vital services and for WFP to reach them with food assistance is essential to avoid a catastrophe. Access must be extended well beyond major cities to reach people in desperate need wherever they may be, with adequate assistance and without delay.”
“UNICEF is extremely concerned about the situation across Tigray as we see more and more young children and babies slide dangerously close to sickness and potential death from malnutrition,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.
“We are working with our partners to provide nutrition, health care and clean water support. However, without humanitarian access to scale up our response, an estimated 33,000 severely malnourished children in currently inaccessible areas in Tigray are at high risk of death. The world cannot permit that to happen.”
Causes of acute food insecurity
According to the IPC report, the key cause of acute food insecurity in Tigray is conflict as it has led to massive population displacement, widespread destruction of livelihoods and critical infrastructure, and loss of employment. Conflict has also limited access to markets.
An increase in conflict could push more people to flee their homes and prevent families from accessing food distribution points or other food and livelihood sources, noted the report.
Conflict-hit Tigray is already the most at-risk region with 4 million people - 70 per cent of the population – experiencing high levels of acute food insecurity (IPC 3 or above). Bordering areas in neighbouring Afar and Amhara regions, which host a large number of internally displaced persons from Tigray, have 60 per cent and 41 per cent of their populations in high levels of acute food insecurity (over 450,000 and 1 million people respectively).
Jan. 2021 (OCHA)
While the UN, along with its humanitarian partners, has been able to access areas in Tigray, Ethiopia, previously inaccessible, particularly in cities, localized fighting and insecurity continues, with fighting reported in rural areas and around Mekelle, Shiraro and Shire, as of last week.
Access to most parts of north-western, eastern and central Tigray remains constrained due to the ongoing insecurity and bureaucratic hurdles. Two of the four refugee camps in the region (Hitsats and Shimelba) are still not accessible.
The UN estimates that 2.3 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance in Tigray, including 1.3 million additional people due to the conflict and more than 950,000 existing people, including refugees.
While the UN continues to seek full and unhindered access, it has shared its best estimation of people in need based on data collected pre-conflict and during conflict.
The UN continues to assess the situation and these figures are likely to evolve in the coming period as further information becomes available and teams are able to access more locations to verify the situation on the ground.
Dec. 2020
The humanitarian situation in Tigray continues to deteriorate rapidly, one month on since the conflict began in early November. Although verification of the full extent of the crisis is still challenging due to telecommunication blackouts and lack of access, humanitarians on the ground have reported critical shortages of the most basic commodities, including food and water, affecting the whole region, the refugee camps and aid workers living in Tigray.
Humanitarian needs have reportedly further increased following the recent clashes in the capital Mekelle.
The situation in the refugee camps is reportedly dire, and UNHCR is appealing to the Federal authorities in Ethiopia for urgent access in order to reach Eritrean refugees who are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance and services, as the camps have run out of food supplies.
Partners have called for the immediate reinstatement of cash transfers and access to fuel and food distributions across Tigray and health commodities, particularly in Mekelle.
Humanitarian actors have warned of a risk of water-and vector borne diseases due to the lack of access to clean water and sanitation services, majority of which were reportedly destroyed during the conflict. Health partners have raised concerns over the possibility of a surge in COVID-19 infections in the affected areas, which was already reporting a high caseload prior to the conflict.
As people flee in large numbers, there are fears that the risk of transmission will increase, including to areas of displacement as people live in crowded places with lack of access to health care and prevention measures. Routine medical and health services, including testing and risk communication and sensitization campaigns for prevention and treatment of COVID-19 remain interrupted in the region since the start of the conflict.
Health care facilities in Tigray region need support to care for the wounded, and hospitals are also running out of drugs and supplies for routine medical issues.
The conflict continues to push people from their homes, with reports of many displaced across Tigray and some fleeing towards Afar and Amhara.
At least 850,000 people were in need of humanitarian aid before the conflict, with now an additional 1.1 million people projected to need aid.
Dec. 2020
UN calls for humanitarian access to Tigray.
The head of the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) said he hoped humanitarian access to Ethiopia's northern Tigray region would be granted soon by national authorities.
"It is not possible yet, so I hope it will develop in the next few days," UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi told a press conference from the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed declared an end to a military operation in Tigray on Saturday after the army took control of the regional capital of Mekele, after the Tigray People’s Liberation Front forces reportedly withdrew from the regional capital to spare the civilian population from bombardment.
Grandi said Ethiopia's announcement that it had ended its military offensive "does not mean the conflict is finished."
Claims from both sides are difficult to verify as phone and internet links to the region have been down and access tightly controlled.
Thousands of people are believed to have been killed and many more displaced since the fighting began more than three weeks ago and there are still fears the conflict may destabilise the wider Horn of Africa region.
The UN and its humanitarian partners are deeply concerned about the plight of civilians in the Tigray region, especially in its capital, Mekelle, following the latest developments reported in the city, reports the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Aid.
Even before the recent fighting began, civilians in Mekelle, which is home to nearly half a million people, had endured weeks of fuel, cash and basic commodities shortages. Civilian infrastructure had also been damaged. There are also reports of critical shortages of medical supplies in Mekelle and across the Tigray region needed to treat people injured during the clashes.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said that hospitals in Mekele are running "dangerously low" on supplies to care for the wounded. It said a referral hospital in the city is lacking basic supplies such as gloves.
"The influx of wounded forced the hospital to suspend many other medical services so that limited staff and resources could be devoted to emergency medical care," the ICRC said in a statement.
Humanitarians report that affected people have been forced to rely on untreated water to survive following the damage and destruction of water infrastructure.
They say it is critical that essential supplies and services are restored immediately in Mekelle and across the Tigray region.
The conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region continues to displace people within the country and towards Sudan. In Sudan, humanitarians are reporting complex logistical and operational response challenges. Nearly 45,500 people are now seeking refuge in the country, most of them children.
Mr. Grandi said he is also very concerned about the fate of nearly 100,000 Eritrean refugees in Tigray amid reports that some have been abducted.
23 Nov. 2020
UN ‘extremely concerned’ for safety of Tigray civilians in regional capital, as refugee numbers grow. (UN News)
The UN on Monday said it was “extremely concerned” over the safety of civilians across Ethiopia’s Tigray region, as fighting between Government troops and those loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) continued.
Due to a near total communications blackout across Tigray, establishing facts on the ground is proving difficult, but UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric told correspondents at UN Headquarters that more than half a million people remain in Mekelle “following information that fighting might move into the city in the coming hours.”
The TPLF was formerly the dominant political party of government in Ethiopia, losing out at the ballot box in 2018, when Abiy Amed won the prime ministership that April, forming a ruling coalition that the TPLF reportedly declined to join.
“The UN and its humanitarian partners in Ethiopia are urgently calling on all parties to the conflict to comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law and protect civilians and civilian infrastructure, including health facilities, and water systems”, added Mr. Dujarric.
Humanitarian colleagues are stressing that it is urgent that all parties to the conflict enable the free and safe movement of civilians fleeing in search of safety and assistance, “including across international and within national borders, regardless of their ethnic identification”, he said.
Some 40,000 people have now fled across the border into neighbouring Sudan, including 17,000 children.
A majority of the relocated refugees are women and children: “I have seen men are slaughtered in front of my own eyes. I cannot forget that”, one young woman told UNFPA officials in the southeast Sudanese camp at Um Raquba, during a needs assessment in the past few days.
“I ran from home when the gunfire was going off. I still don’t know where my father and brothers are.”
Many of the women and girls are fearful for their safety. Vulnerability to gender-based violence often increases during humanitarian crises. Women’s reproductive health needs are also dangerously unmet.
“One woman lost her baby after nine months of pregnancy due to a lack of services”, said Massimo Diana, UNFPA’s Representative in Sudan. The woman had arrived at the health centre too late to deliver safely. “No woman should have to go through this, and we are working to ensure services are available to save lives”, he added.
* Agenda for Humanity: Respect the Rules of War:
* Report of the UN Secretary-General on the protection of civilians in armed conflict:
Nov 2020
Amid emerging reports of mass killings in the town of Mai-Kadra, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet has expressed increasing alarm at the rapidly deteriorating situation in the Ethiopian region of Tigray.
She warned that if the Tigray regional forces and Ethiopian Government forces continue down the path they are on “there is a risk this situation will spiral totally out of control, leading to heavy casualties and destruction, as well as mass displacement within Ethiopia itself and across borders.. “The first priority right now must be to stop the fighting and prevent any further atrocities from taking place.”
The UN Human Rights Chief said that despite the severing of communications with Tigray making it difficult to verify the extent of the damage so far, she had received reports from a variety of sources suggesting increased airstrikes by Government forces as well as fierce ground fighting between the opposing forces.
“I am also extremely alarmed at reports of cuts to essential water and electricity supplies, in addition to the communications blackout and blocking of access by road and air,” she said. “This means there is already a dramatic impact on the civilian population, in addition to the risk of death or injury as a result of hostilities.”
The UN Human Rights Chief repeated her earlier appeal to both sides to begin talks with the aim of an immediate cessation of hostilities.
“I strongly urge both sides to realize that there will be no winner in such a situation and begin a serious dialogue to resolve their differences without delay,” Bachelet said. “A protracted internal conflict will inflict devastating damage on both Tigray and Ethiopia as a whole, undoing years of vital development progress. It could, in addition, all too easily spill across borders, potentially destabilizing the whole sub-region.”
Ethiopia: Protect People as Tigray Crisis Escalates. (Human Rights Watch)
Early on November 4, 2020, the Ethiopian government began military operations in Tigray, one of the country’s semi-autonomous regions, in what Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed claimed was a response to an attack on a federal military base by the ruling party in the region, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
“Tight restrictions on access for aid agencies and communications mean that millions of people in Tigray affected by the fighting are at grave risk,” said Laetitia Bader, Horn of Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Federal and regional authorities should respect the right to life and take all necessary measures to assist and protect the population.”
The fighting follows a year of growing tensions between the federal government and the Tigray authorities. The situation worsened after the federal government reconfigured the ruling coalition, into a single party and postponed highly anticipated national elections, citing Covid-19-related health risks.
Several opposition parties condemned the decision, including the TPLF, which held its own regional elections in September, in defiance of the federal government’s decision.
Following the alleged attack on the federal military base, phone and internet communications were swiftly cut in the region, and the federal government soon after announced a round of airstrikes in areas around the regional capital, Mekelle.
Hundreds of people were reportedly killed and injured on November 9 in an incident around Mai Kadra, in western Tigray where much of the fighting has occurred.
Authorities on both sides need to protect the population from the fighting, facilitate immediate and unhindered access to health and aid workers to help all those in need, and conduct an impartial investigation into the incident, Human Rights Watch said.
Six humanitarian agencies reported that the movement restrictions and the communication shutdown were significantly hampering their activities, including tending to those wounded and killed in the fighting.
Access into Tigray is blocked, including by road and air, while the border with Sudan remains partially closed, based on reports by the media and humanitarian agencies. Prior to the outbreak of fighting, reports highlighted that food and fuel were already in short supply, with over 600,000 people relying on food aid to survive.
The region is also home to 100,000 internally displaced people and 96,000 Eritrean refugees. Nearly 44 percent of those living in refugee camps are children.
Humanitarian reports on the situation in Tigray also highlight that the closure of banks and restrictions on essential goods such as food, water, fuel, electricity, and medical supplies risk compounding the suffering of a population already in need.
Under international human rights law, the Ethiopian government bears the primary responsibility to meet the needs of people on its territory. Lifting broad restrictions on services and granting humanitarian agencies access is essential to provide necessary aid to affected populations and avert a looming humanitarian crisis, Human Rights Watch said. The Tigray regional authorities are also responsible for addressing the needs of people under their effective control.
While the phone and internet shutdown has made it difficult for journalists and aid workers to document and confirm reports of the situation on the ground, Ethiopians outside the region have also been cut off from their relatives in Tigray.
Under Abiy’s administration, phone and network shutdowns have become routine during social and political unrest, including in the Oromia region, where the government has engaged in counterinsurgency operations within the last year. The current military action follows recurrent episodes of violence and unrest that have flared up throughout the country since 2018, leading to the displacement of nearly two million people since the start of 2020 alone.

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