Ethiopia admits forces shot at UN team in Tigray, Dujarric expresses concern

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The United Nations is discussing with the Ethiopian government on the avoidance of any future incidents where federal troops reportedly fired on UN humanitarians in Tigray, a UN spokesman said.

Stephane Dujarric, the chief spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, did not report any casualties among the two international and two national staff reportedly targeted on Sunday while assessing road accessibility for aid convoys in Tigray.

“The UN has seen the reports of a UN convoy being shot at in Tigray province,” Dujarric said. “These are alarming reports, and we are engaging at the highest level with the federal government to express our concerns and avoid any such incidents in the future.”

Guterres talked by telephone on Monday with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, about the reported incident, the spokesman said.

“As to the exact details of what happened, those are still being looked at and I can’t really go into more detail at this point,” he told a regular press briefing.

Last week Dujarric announced an agreement between the Ethiopian government and the United Nations for long-sought access to the thousands of civilians in Ethiopia’s northernmost regional state of Tigray, including displaced people and Eritrean refugees who had been living in camps in Tigray.

Shortly after federal troops and Tigray rebels clashed one month ago, the United Nations has been trying to reach victims of the conflict and some 200 mainly national aid workers from the world organization and its humanitarian partners. They remained in the state’s capital city of Mekelle while violence flared around them.

“If the question is: are we getting unfettered, clear humanitarian access at this point? No,” the spokesman said. “That’s why we are still in discussions with the government to try to get to where we want to be.”

He said the humanitarian workers that stayed behind “are trying the best that they can, but clearly, we are not able at this very moment to get the aid in that we want to get in.”

“The United Nations remains steadfast in its call that it is essential that the delivery of public services be re-established, and unfettered humanitarian access be guaranteed,” Dujarric said.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that the dire shortage of food, water, fuel and cash in the Tigray region is seriously affecting people, including humanitarian workers.

“In many areas, people have been living for more than a month now with no electricity, running water, banking or communications,” OCHA said. The humanitarian office is concerned about the lack of essential medical supplies hampering health care workers’ ability and critical services, including for pregnant women.

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