A UNHCR staff member speaks to internally displaced people.

A UNHCR staff member speaks to internally displaced people in the street in Axum, in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. © UNHCR/Lana Chouhfeh

Earlier this week, hundreds of civilians were wounded or killed by airstrikes on a market in Tigray near Mekelle. This latest tragedy underscores the escalation of conflict in the region as the humanitarian situation becomes increasingly dire, with the threat of famine, increased displacement and continuing reports of human rights violations, including particularly disturbing incidents of gender-based violence and the forcible return of refugees to persecution or danger.

UNHCR has teams on the ground to address the critical situation of the hundreds of thousands already displaced, particularly in the areas of shelter, camp management and protection. We are continuing to scale up our response to address the ever-growing needs despite the volatile context.  UNHCR has assembled a team of highly qualified emergency staff who are ready to reinforce teams on the ground. The quick deployment of these technical experts and emergency teams to Tigray will make a difference to the lives of thousands of civilians.

Since the onset of the conflict last November, I have repeatedly called for all parties to respect the protection of civilians and the safety of humanitarian workers on the ground. Civilians, including refugees have suffered enough and UNHCR and other humanitarian agencies must be allowed to help them. Only improved security and entry and access throughout Tigray will allow UNHCR and other humanitarian partners to carry out our mandate to assist those desperately in need.

Originally published by UNHCR on 25 June 2021.

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