News Highlights: Airstrikes and healthcare destruction in Tigray, Adigrat Church calls for end to blockade, seven dead in Sudan protests

In this week Horn Highlights: Airstrikes have killed over 100 people in Tigray since 2022; Adigrat Church sends out a letter detailing atrocities and humanitarian needs; Article details health care destruction in Tigray; WFP update on Tigray; Biden calls with Abiy; New US Horn Envoy to visit Ethiopia; WHO asks for humanitarian access to Tigray; Seven killed during one of the bloodiest days of Sudan protests; UN denounces attacks on UN operations in North Darfur.

Greater Horn of Africa

Ethiopia: Tigray hit by airstrikes killing over 108 civilians since 2022
The last weeks have seen an increase in airstrikes carried out in the Tigray region. According to reports, hundreds of people, including women and children, have been killed in these strikes. The United Nations says that at least 108 civilians have been killed in Tigray since the start of the year 2022. The UN also said that it was “alarmed by the multiple, deeply disturbing reports we continue to receive of civilian casualties and destruction of civilian objects resulting from airstrikes in Ethiopia’s Tigray region.” The Spokesperson of the UN Secretary-General added that “the Secretary-General reiterates his call for an immediate cessation of hostilities, including airstrikes, and for all parties to adhere to their obligations under international humanitarian law to facilitate humanitarian access and to ensure the protection of civilians, including humanitarian actors, premises, and sites.” 

Ethiopia: Adigrat Church letter outlines atrocities and humanitarian needs
The Ethiopian Catholic Church in Adigrat, Tigray, says in a letter that the conflict has deprived people of basic human rights, including the right to live in dignity, food and shelter, and the right to humanitarian assistance. The Diocesan Director of Adigrat, Abba Abraha Hagos, says that millions of people are experiencing starvation, famine, and malnutrition and that urgent action is needed. Food and other items, including water, are in “critical shortage”. The Church has done its utmost to address critical needs, states the letter, but has not been able to do so since December 2021.

Ethiopia: Destruction of the health system in Tigray
Global Health Reporter Sara Jerving outlines in Devex that the health systems in Tigray are “in a state of collapse”. Fighting and the blockade of essential goods have led to chronic shortages, including shortages of medicine. Furthermore, health facilities have been deliberately vandalized, states Jerving. The article sums up the aspects that have led to the collapse of Tigray’s health systems, which had been dubbed one of the best in Ethiopia.

Ethiopia: World Food Programme update on Tigray
The World Food Programme has said in a statement on 14 January that no food convoy has reached Tigray since mid-December. It added that “[s]tocks of nutritionally fortified food for the treatment of malnourished children and women are now exhausted, and the last of WFP’s cereals, pulses and oil will be distributed next week.” The WFP further said that they can only reach 20% of the people due to food and fuel shortages. The number of people in need of aid has also increased by 2.7 million in four months. The total estimated number of people requiring humanitarian aid is now estimated by the WFP to be 9.4 million people. 

Ethiopia: US President calls with Ethiopian PM
The President of the United States Joe Biden and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed have spoken on the phone, according to a press release on 10 January 2022. They discussed the release of political prisoners in Ethiopia, the need for a ceasefire, and humanitarian aid. President Biden also raised concern about the recent airstrikes on Tigray. 

Ethiopia: New US envoy to visit Horn next week
The United States has appointed a new envoy to the Horn, named Ambassador David Satterfield. The state department said that he would travel to Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Ethiopia next week. He will be accompanied by Assistant Secretary of African Affairs Molly Phee, and they will meet government officials. They aim to end the airstrikes, open the door for negotiations, and “lay the foundation for a national dialogue”. In Sudan, they will discuss the country’s transition to democracy. 

Ethiopia: World Health Organisation ask for humanitarian access to Tigray
The World Health Organization has said that it “will continue to ask the Ethiopian government to allow access to deliver humanitarian supplies and services to the 7 million people in Tigray, Ethiopia.” The WHO statement comes following a spat between the WHO and the Ethiopian government, who accused the WHO director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, of supporting the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). The Ethiopian army chief accused Tedros of providing weapons and equipment to the Tigrayans. The United Nations says that the government is carrying out a “de facto” blockade of aid to the region, an accusation the Ethiopian government denies.  

Sudan: 7 protesters killed in a violent crackdown on a demonstration
Seven protesters were killed in protests on Monday 17 January. The deaths were reported by the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors, who indicated that live ammunition and stun grenades were used to repel the protests. Witnesses saw injured victims bleeding heavily amidst volleys of teargas. Protesters announced two days of civil disobedience and strikes after the news of the killings broke out. Meanwhile, one Sudanese pro-democracy group, Central Council for the Forces of Freedom and Change (CCFFC), has conditionally accepted the UN’s offer to broker between the parties in Sudan, states Al Jazeera. However, another prominent group rejected the offer.

Sudan: UN Press Release denounces attacks on UN operations in North Darfur
Officials from various United Nations agencies have denounced attacks that have taken place against UN operations in North Darfur, Sudan. The attacks include the looting of humanitarian assistance. Officials said that “These acts of violence constitute a direct attack on the most vulnerable people in Sudan, who have unjustly been robbed of food assistance they so desperately need.” The attacks forced the World Food Programme to suspend its operations last year. Officials from the agencies have also met with government officials in order to find solutions and bring the attackers to account. An estimated 14.3 million people need humanitarian assistance in the region, and the suspension of WFP operations could affect up to 2 million people. The statement notes that the North Darfur region has been increasingly insecure since November 2021.