With hundreds of thousands fleeing, the need for emergency aid in Tigray is enormous. The Novo Nordisk Foundation provides much-needed support for UNHCR’s relief work.
UNHCR's Ethiopia Representative Ann Encontre talks with refugee children from Eritrea in the Mai Aini camp in Tigray during a visit in late January 2021. © UNHCR/Petterik Wiggers
The conflict in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray province has sent more than 60,000 people fleeing to neighboring Sudan since November. At the same time, hundreds of thousands have been internally displaced in Tigray.
In addition, the violent unrest in Tigray in recent months has particularly and severely impacted the many Eritrean refugees in the region. Nearly 100,000 children and adults from Eritrea have lived in refugee camps in Tigray for several years, but the conflict has now displaced thousands of them yet again, while those remaining are fighting for survival inside the refugee camps.
The many Eritrean refugees, scattered across four refugee camps in the Tigray province, have been cut off from aid since the crisis began in November 2020. UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and partners have now gained access to the two southern camps, Mai Aini and Adi Harush, and are in the process of restoring water supplies and health care as well as distributing food and other necessities. We still need access to the two northern camps, Shimelba and Hitsats, and are very concerned about the conditions there. Refugees in the two camps have now been without help for over three months and lack food, water, medicine and other basic necessities.
Throughout the region, there is a shortage of food, drinking water, shelter, and health care, and it is very difficult to get the emergency aid to people in need. Local infrastructure is blocked, banks are closed, and IT and telecommunications are down in several places.
“We have chosen to support refugees and internally displaced persons in Tigray because we want to make a difference for vulnerable people who have lost everything. With its unique mandate, UNHCR is the right partner to lift this heavy task in an extremely complex humanitarian emergency, where tens of thousands have been forced to flee,” says Hanna Line Jakobsen, Senior Vice President at the Novo Nordisk Foundation.
“The need for support to the many refugees and internally displaced people in Tigray is both enormous and urgent,” said Henrik M. Nordentoft, UNHCR’s Representative to the Nordic and Baltic Countries, adding: “We are very grateful to receive this generous support from the Novo Nordisk Foundation, one of the world’s largest foundations. With this important and timely contribution, we can, among other things, ensure shelter and emergency assistance for the most vulnerable refugee families in the region.”
UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, visited the Tigray province in late January to follow up on the humanitarian crisis in the region. UNHCR is in dialogue with the government and local authorities to gain access to all refugee camps in Tigray as well as acquire permission to deliver and distribute the emergency aid so desperately needed. At the same time, we are present in northeastern Sudan, where Ethiopian refugees are still crossing the border on a daily basis in search of safety. Here, UNHCR continues to ensure that newly arrived refugees are registered, receive shelter, medical care and we help in finding and reuniting family members.
The contribution of DKK 2 million from the Novo Nordisk Foundation is to date the largest single donation from the private sector to UNHCR’s response to the conflict in the Tigray province.
Tsige and her family have fled Tigray and are among those who have been reunited in Sudan. Their biggest hope now is to be able to return home.