Catholic Refugee Agency Appeals for Humanitarian Access amid Ethiopia’s Tigray Violence

The Regional Director of the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in Eastern Africa, Andre Atsu.

The leadership of a Catholic refugee agency with operations in 56 countries worldwide is appealing for humanitarian access to Ethiopia’s Tigray region, which is experiencing violent conflict between the Federal government forces and the paramilitary in the Northern region of the Horn of Africa country.

“As a humanitarian organization, our appeal is to see that there is a humanitarian corridor to support in the provision of basic and essential supplies to people affected,” the Regional Director of the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in Eastern Africa, Andre Atsu told ACI Africa in a Thursday, November 13 interview.

Mr. Atsu added, “Owing to the closure of banks and shops as well as the access route to the town of Shire, there is great high risk that if nothing is done and the fighting continues, the humanitarian workers/refugees/community members will run out of food and other essential supplies soon.”

In a November 11 update, the leadership of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) decried the inability of humanitarian organizations to access the region due to blocked roads noting, “There are already shortages of basic commodities, impacting the most vulnerable first.”

The landlocked Horn of Africa nation has been experiencing clashes since November 4 when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed-led government ordered a military offensive against the authorities in the Tigray region, which borders Eritrea.


As Africa’s second largest refugee host country, Ethiopia is home to 779, 261 refugees,  96,000 of whom are in the crisis-ridden Tigray region, according to UNHCR. 

Amid the reported violent conflict, there are reports indicating that an estimated 11,000 Ethiopian asylum seekers have fled to neighboring Sudan, a number that officials of the UN emergency relief agency say could rise to as high as 20,000 in a month and 100,000 in a year if the violent conflict is not de-escalated.

Due to the communication lockdown in Tigray region, Mr. Atsu told ACI Africa, “Little is known currently about the refugee situation except that they are not affected but could face basic supplies shortage.”

“For security reasons, JRS is currently working with other partners to evacuate some of its staff who are not from the region for fear of becoming victims should the conflict degenerate into ethnic conflict,” he told ACI Africa.

However, despite the evacuation of JRS’ non-local staff, “our activities are continuing in the camps as possible as we can,” Mr. Atsu added during the November 13 interview.

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Deemed critical to the stability of the Horn of Africa and as a key refugee host country, the JRS official says the conflict in the Tigray region is “going to complicate further the complex refugee situation.” 

Amid the conflict that has made news headlines internationally, various Catholic leaders have called for cessation of hostilities in the country.

On November 8, Pope Francis called for a rejection of armed conflict, and invited the two sides “to prayer and to fraternal respect, to dialogue and to a peaceful end to the disagreements.”

The Holy Father’s call was echoed by Bishops in Eastern Africa who, in their November 13 solidarity letter to the people of God in Ethiopia, discouraged the use of military power saying “it will only transform the conflict into civil war, making the beautiful country of Ethiopia to become a more destabilized country.”

In the solidarity message, the leadership of the Association of Member Episcopal conferences of Eastern Africa (AMECEA) appeals “for peaceful dialogue.”