The United Nations is calling on the Ethiopian government to immediately release an unprecedented number of arrested workers and contract workers, a UN spokesman said on Thursday.
“We continue to work actively with the government to try to reverse this situation,” said Stephane Dujarric, chief spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. “We want to see our colleagues released as soon as possible. “We want to see those contractors hired by the United Nations and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) also released as soon as possible.”
As of Thursday, at least nine UN staff members and more than 70 truck drivers remained in custody, he said.
Asked at a news conference about the number of prisoners compared to previous detentions of UN staff around the world, Dujarric replied: “In my last memory it is unprecedented in terms of the numbers that we are seeing. “
The United Nations and NGOs hired truck drivers to deliver humanitarian aid to Ethiopia’s northernmost Tigray region.
Earlier in the week, published reports said the government was gathering people identified as Tigrayans.
“From our point of view, they are Ethiopians, our colleagues, they are staff members, no matter what ethnicity may be listed on their ID cards, they should be released,” Dujarric said.
“Our humanitarian colleagues say that people in the Amhara need shelter, food, water, medicine and protection, as the fighting in the Amhara has caused many people to relocate from Dessie, Kombolcha, Baati, Kamissie and other areas of the Amhara. Said Dujarric. “Tens of thousands of internally displaced people are reportedly registered in the town of Debre Berhan, many of whom are housed in two schools.”
Thousands of people are reported to have also been displaced from Chifra and Ada’ar to Afar, he said. Most of these people are women and children.
The spokesman said security concerns were hampering the delivery of humanitarian aid. Electricity and telecommunications were cut off in Dessie and Kombolcha in Amhara on 30 October. About 915,000 people have received food aid and nearly 160,000 have received housing and other items since August.
However, he said no UN-organized humanitarian supplies could take the Semera-Abala-Mekelle road to Tigray since October 18. In Semera, Afar region, 364 trucks are being held hostage.
Dujarric said the shortages of fuel and money significantly affect the ability of the United Nations and its partners to transport supplies, including food. The lack of essential medical equipment, supplies and vaccines throughout Tigray is also seriously affecting the availability of healthcare.
However, humanitarian partners remain in Tigray, aiming to provide assistance with available resources, he said.
Between Oct. 28 and Nov. 3, about 112,000 people received food in Tigray, well below the average of 870,000 targeted for aid each week, he said.
Across the country, humanitarian operations face a funding gap of $ 1.3 billion, including $ 350 million for the Tigray response alone, he said.
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