UN evacuates staff from Ethiopia’s Tigray after airstrike

United Nations, Oct 21 (IANS) The UN is evacuating some humanitarian personnel from Ethiopia’s Tigray, following a new airstrike on the regional capital of Mekelle, a spokesman for the world body said.

“Initial information from the ground indicates that civilians, including women and children, were injured,” Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said Wednesday’s attack.

“We are trying to gather more information,” Xinhua news agency quoted Haq as saying.

While the UN and humanitarian partners are staying and delivering humanitarian aid, Haq said: “For safety measures, a small proportion of the UN team has been relocated — and that’s around 100 UN staff and 17 dependents.”

Airstrikes in and around Mekelle claimed the lives of three children and wounded 20 others on Monday.

He said that the world organisation has almost 400 staff members in Tigray alone, committed to delivering lifesaving needs to the most vulnerable people.

Some 30 per cent of all UN staff in Ethiopia are in different country regions, including Tigray.

Counting UN, national and international non-governmental organisations, there are nearly 2,000 humanitarians in the northern region, the spokesman said.

“Our humanitarian colleagues are alarmed by the escalating conflict in the north,” Haq said.

“We repeat our call to all parties to the conflict to de-escalate across Tigray, Amhara and Afar to avoid further casualties and the suffering of civilians.”

He said humanitarian needs are also increasing in Amhara and Afar due to the spillover from the conflict in Tigray.

“Across the country, our team on the ground notes multiple safety issues that are sparking an increasing number of internally displaced people, who urgently need humanitarian assistance.”

More than 5.2 million people across Tigray, or over 90 per cent of the region’s population, need life-saving assistance, including nearly 400,000 people facing famine-like conditions, the spokesman said.

He said all parties to the conflict must uphold international humanitarian law and protect civilians and civilian infrastructure.