UN still hoping for humanitarian access to Tigray

·2-min read
A militiaman in Ethiopia's Tigray region in December 2020. Not enough aid is being allowed in, the UN has warned

Every member of the UN Security Council called for increased aid during a closed-door meeting Wednesday to discuss the humanitarian situation in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, according to diplomats.

The meeting had been requested by Ireland, Estonia, France, Norway, Britain and the United States.

"Everyone said there should be more humanitarian access," one diplomat said under condition of anonymity, though no official statement was released after the discussions.

There was never meant to be a declaration passed, according to the same diplomat, though another said the idea was abandoned because African members of the council had said they would refuse to vote for one, deeming it unproductive.

Meetings on the situation in Tigray have been few and far between since the Ethiopian military operation began in November, with African countries in particular preferring to treat the conflict as a domestic matter.

But Western powers have argued that the influx of refugees into neighboring Sudan was a humanitarian crisis requiring international intervention.

The Security Council also failed to produce a declaration after other closed-door meetings on November 24 and December 14.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in mid-December announced two deals with Ethiopian authorities that should have allowed access to the country.

But opportunities to deliver aid remain fragile, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Wednesday.

"Very little is being allowed in," he said.

"What we need is to be able to just get in there in an unfettered manner without having to, I guess, negotiate for every truck, for every box."

"We work cooperatively with the government, and it's their country ... we have to go through them, and that's the way it should be," Dujarric said.

"But there is a grave humanitarian need in Tigray, and at this point, we're not able to reach the people that need to be reached."

High-level UN figures visited Ethiopia this week, including the high commissioner for refugees Filippo Grandi and UN undersecretary-general Gilles Michaud -- while a visit from World Food Program chief David Beasley is expected in the coming days, according to diplomats -- to try to gain access to refugee camps.

Akshaya Kumar of the NGO Human Rights Watch said: "The Security Council should hold a public session followed by a strong resolution demanding an end to aid obstruction and immediate investigation of war crimes" in Ethiopia.

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