EU holds onto Ethiopia budget support over Tigray conflict

The Europen Union has withheld millions of Euros in budgetary support to Ethiopia over the Tigray conflict. Humanitarian workers are voicing concern over the living conditions facing survivors of the conflict. 

Brussels has withheld 90 million euros in budgetary support payments due before the year’s end. This is due to the raging humanitarian situation in Northern Tigray.

The EU is leveraging the money in an attempt to urge the Ethiopian government to meet certain conditions. Among these conditions are; granting full access to relief workers, giving access to civilians seeking refuge across the borders, restoring communication and media access. This move by the EU does not interfere with ongoing humanitarian programmes and other development initiatives. 

Also read: Ethiopia Tigray conflict

Tigray in isolation

Little is known about the situation in the Tigray region. All communication channels had been shut. Organizations were forced to estimate and speculate the extent of casualties and material damage in the aftermath of the clashes between the federal army and the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF). 

Also read: Ethiopia PM ends offensive after the capture of Tigray’s capital Mekelle

The United Nations estimates that over 2.3 million children are cut out from basic humanitarian assistance. They have no access to emergency medicines, treatment for malnourishment, critical vaccines, and sanitation supplies. The UNHCR gives the number of refugees who have crossed into Sudan at 50,000. 

Relief efforts

On December 2, the UN arrived at an agreement with the Tigray region to give aid workers unimpeded, secure and sustained access to the region. Yet again, the UN was forced to repeat that call for humanitarian aid on Tuesday - an indication of non-compliance. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed visited Mekelle on Monday and tweeted that electricity and telecommunications are being restored. The 2019 Nobel Laurette described the situation as “restore, rebuild and develop.”

Also read: Tigray rejects the 72-hour surrender ultimatum

The World Food Programme (WFP), which won this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, is struggling to handle the tsunami of refugees thronging Sudan, even calling for increased donations. UNHCR has to juggle between the humanitarian refugee crisis and a concurrent global pandemic, hence the need to supply more handwashing stations, PPE kits, as well as information and sensitization campaigns in the congested refugee camps.

Also read: Clock ticking for Tigray as Ethiopia PM gives a 72-hour ultimatum

On Monday, civil servants were ordered back to work in Tigray or face dismissal. A further directive was issued to all gun owners to disarm or face arrest. The airspace has been opened and some communication and power lines restored in the region’s capital after being shut down on November 4. VOA reports that no journalist is allowed into the region without a permit. As is expected of any conflict-ridden area, there are reports of hikes in fuel and food prices, as well as water shortages.