Italy is asking for wide-ranging and unreserved humanitarian access to the Tigray Region, through the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Emanuela Del Re. After days of denials, the first openings have been granted by Ethiopia. Everything needs to be verified in the coming days, but strong international pressure has been put on Addis Ababa to allow access to humanitarian workers. First, Josep Borrell intervened about ten days ago on behalf of the EU, and suspended 88 million euros in aid to the African Country, making it conditional to improvement in humanitarian conditions. Later, concern was raised last week by Great Britain and France at the worsening of the situation. Meanwhile the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, has continued to put pressure on the federal government to allow entry to the Hitsats and Shimelba refugee camps. Then, on the one hand, the Biden Administration cautioned Eritrea to immediately withdraw from the Tigray Region (Asmara denied that its troops were present – editor’s note) and, on the other, used their new Ambassador to Ethiopia, to extend a hand of friendship to Abiy Ahmed stating that the conflict had been caused by the TPLF. Now it is Italy’s turn.
“We believe that extending staffing by the United Nations and other humanitarian partners in the Tigray,” said Vice Minister Del Re, “is essential and urgent, in order to enhance their operating capacity. We are ready to organise new aid, especially in the health field, in collaboration with the Red Cross. We call for the support of the Ethiopian Government to obtain the necessary authorisations. In light of our long friendship with Addis Ababa, our leading partner in Sub-Saharan Africa, we know we need to move forward pragmatically. We will give priority to the humanitarian assistance and protection that are urgently needed to all areas and peoples affected by the conflict”.
How would you evaluate the humanitarian situation?
“Complex and worrying. The humanitarian organisations are not able to reach the Central and Western zones of the region, and we know that two Eritrean refugee camps are inaccessible. Where entry has been achieved, access has been limited to the main streets of the capital Mekelle. When attempting to pass through, you face complicated bureaucracy, which slows down the activity. Hence, as I have said, we have called on Ethiopia to send a strong message to the world in guaranteeing wide-ranging and unreserved humanitarian access, in line with international principles and standards. A constant, consistent flow of aid needs to be created, and refugees and displaced people must be protected. Never before has access been such a particularly positive political choice”.
What was Ethiopia’s response to Italy’s appeal to open the Tigray Region?
“There have been encouraging signs. I had already been in talks with the aid coordinator and the Peace Minister, Muferita Kamil, to explaining the difficulties facing us for sending concrete aid. I have just spoken to Redwan Hussien, the Ethiopian State Minister for Foreign Affairs, to update him on the aid we will be sending. I hope there will be concrete developments in the next few hours”.
What are your particular concerns?
“The inter-ethnic violence, the situation of the displaced people, and the refugees fleeing to Sudan. Then there is the collapse of the health sector in the Region, with numerous hospitals reporting a shortage of means and personnel, and facing growing difficulty in assisting the people affected by the conflict or by chronic illnesses”.
Reports are tragic, and highlight the scourge of delays in aid…
“Stopping the humanitarian emergency is the priority, then peace needs to be established for the future. In view of the mission by the Finnish Foreign Minister, Haavisto, appointed by Borrell to go to Addis Ababa and Khartoum, we continue to step up our diplomatic efforts, working closely with our European partners”.