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Visiting Ethiopia’s Tigray Region “was important and eye-opening”: Bishops’ Delegation

Members of the delegation by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Ethiopia (CBCE) who paid a solidarity visit to the Tigray region from January 12-14.

Members of the delegation by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Ethiopia (CBCE) have described their recent solidarity visit to the troubled region of Tigray within the territory covered by Ethiopia’s Eparchy of Adigrat as “important and eye-opening.”

In their Thursday, January 21 report, the five-member delegation that was commissioned by the head of the Catholic Church in Ethiopia, Berhaneyesus Cardinal Souraphiel, says the visit was meant to “physically see the Catholic Bishop of the Eparchy of Adigrat and understand the actual humanitarian situation and need of the people of Tigray.”

“It was an important and eye-opening visit to see and understand different realities and consequences,” the delegation says in reference to the 12-14 January solidarity visit.

The members of the delegation included CBCE Secretary General, Fr. Teshome Fikre, the Executive Director of Ethiopian Catholic Church Social Development Commission (ECC-SDCO), Bekele Moges, and three representatives from the Catholic Relief Services (CRS).

The visit aimed at meeting “the relevant interim regional government officials and discuss the humanitarian corridor and interventions,” the members of the delegation say in the 11-page report shared with ACI Africa. 

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“The number of people in need of food, water and medicine is increasing from the initial project planning by three-fold,” they say in the January 21 report.

Making reference to the situation in Adigrat city where the delegation met the Local Ordinary of the Eparchy of Adigrat, Bishop Tesfaselassie Medhin alongside members of various Religious Orders, the delegation says, “The number of people displaced in search of protection for safety has passed over 50,000.”

“There is an urgent need of food, nonfood items, medicine, water, shelter, and psychosocial support,” the members of the delegation say and add, “There is also a need for the teachers, administration and staff salaries, logistical support, Capacity building, property rehabilitation, lobbying for protection and safety of affected people.”

As a way forward, they recommend that humanitarian aid workers and government officials “work jointly for the timely and effectiveness of the intervention.”

“The efforts in resource mobilization must be increased and flexibility of implementation modality is needed to reach the need as fast as possible,” they further recommend.

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Members of various Religious Congregations in the region agreed to “work as a team to respond to the serious need of the community,” says the CBCE delegation in the January 21 report.

Bishop Medhin  recently appealed for aid to save the lives of the millions of people affected by the violence in Ethiopia’s Tigray region.

“I am writing to you this appeal once again with terrible/dire humanitarian situation which we are experiencing here in Tigray Region because of the war which started on November 4, 2020,” the Ethiopian Bishop said in a letter dated January 5 and circulated January 14. 

Violence broke out in Tigray on November 4 after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed-led government ordered a military offensive against the authorities in Tigray region of Ethiopia.

The offensive was reportedly triggered by the alleged attack on the federal military’s Northern Command stationed in the region by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

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The conflict has resulted in the deaths of thousands and the displacement of some 950,000 people,  Reuters reported.

The International Rescue Committee has reported that over 21 million people in the region are in need of humanitarian aid.

In their January 21 report, members of the Catholic Bishops’ delegation say, “Challenges were noted to timely distribute food and nonfood items due to lack of flexibility in targeting and listing beneficiaries.”  

“People started dying due to shortage of food and water in remote areas of the region and food delivery is delayed,” they say and explain, “The hold-up is occasioned by the insecurity, absence of private transport companies to mobilize food and non-food items and the lack of funds to pay warehouses, labour, transport and salaries of staff and internet network to communicate with donors and headquarters.” 

The members of the delegation who held meetings with government officials during their visit also say, “The regional interim administration requested for fast humanitarian response to save lives of people in all areas of Tigray, to be aid effective and avoid duplication of efforts.”

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The regional interim administrator also recommended the use of “different modalities of cash transfer to the beneficiaries after discussing with different banks at national level as the cash shortage is reported in the region,” the CBCE delegation adds.