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UN Geneva Press Briefing

Alessandra Vellucci, Director of the United Nations Information Service, chaired the hybrid briefing, attended by spokespersons of the United Nations Refugee Agency, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the World Food Programme.

Situation in Tigray, Ethiopia

Andrej Mahecic, for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), said that, together with 30 humanitarian partners, UNHCR was releasing today an urgent appeal for USD 156 million. The requested funds were needed to meet the critical humanitarian needs of Ethiopian refugees fleeing the conflict in Tigray through the first half of 2021.

The Regional Refugee Preparedness and Response Plan for the Ethiopia Situation

(Tigray) covered the period from November 2020 through to June 2021 and was expected to reach up to 115,000 refugees and 22,000 people from host communities. It aimed to support the governments of Sudan, Djibouti and Eritrea in maintaining and facilitating access to

asylum and providing life-saving assistance to those who had been forced to flee.

Currently many refugees remained in overcrowded conditions without proper facilities and

there continued to be a shortage of medicines and other supplies. Partners were calling for

urgent new contributions in order to meet the immense humanitarian needs in eastern

Sudan and to ensure full preparedness throughout the region, concluded Mr. Mahecic.

UNHCR briefing note is here.

More than 52,000 refugees had arrived to Sudan thus far, said Mr. Mahecic responding to a question. Access to Tigray was very much needed in order to assess the situation there, including the number of internally displaced persons.

Elizabeth Throssell, for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), stated that the continuing lack of overall humanitarian access, coupled with an ongoing communications blackout in many areas, raised increasing concerns about the situation of civilians.

OHCHR had received allegations concerning violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law, including artillery strikes on populated areas, the deliberate targeting of civilians, extrajudicial killings and widespread looting. Those reports pointed to failure by the parties to the conflict to protect civilians, which was all the more concerning given that fighting was said to be continuing, particularly in some areas of north, central and southern Tigray.

One of the most shocking incidents reported to date was the alleged mass killing of several hundred people, mainly Amharans, in Mai Kadra, on 9 November. If civilians had been deliberately killed by a party or parties to the conflict, these killings would amount to war crimes and there needed to be independent, impartial, thorough and transparent investigations to establish accountability and ensure justice. Independent human rights monitors ought to be allowed to all areas of Tigray as soon as possible in order to ensure accountability, stressed Ms. Throssell.

OHCHR briefing note is here.

Refugee ration cuts in Uganda

Tomson Phiri, for the World Food Programme (WFP), said that from February 2021 the WFP would reduce cash and food rations for more than 1.2 million refugees in Uganda. Uganda hosted around 1.4 million refugees, which made it one of the largest refugee populations in Africa. Most of those refugees had fled different conflicts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, and Burundi. This year had been incredibly difficult for those refugees, and the WFP had received less than one half of the funds it needed. Since April 2020, the WFP had already been issuing reduced rations in order to keep up its activities.

WFP immediately needed USD 95.8 million to provide rations to Uganda over the next six months. WFP aimed to continue providing assistance to the most vulnerable categories, but there was a fear that there would be many who could not be helped. Many refugees were already food insecure, stressed Mr. Phiri. Consistent funding was necessary in order to secure continuous support for the refugees.


Geneva announcements

Alessandra Vellucci, for the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), informed that this was the last briefing of 2020. The next briefing would take place on Tuesday, 5 January 2021. Ms. Vellucci thanked all the spokespersons, the journalists and her staff at UNIS for being cooperative and going an extra mile in this extraordinarily difficult year.

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