Following the case of 30 refugees who have died of hunger and malnutrition in Ethiopia’s Gambella region, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has called for immediate resumption of nutritionally adequate food assistance to all refugee communities.
The was region was hosting close to 400,000 refugees as of the end of August and food aid was halted since May in parts of Gambella’s refugee camps, while other camps have also not seen new rounds of food assistance since June this year.
The refugees died from hunger and malnutrition as well as attacks as they left their camps in search of food, according to the EHRC’s statement on Wednesday.
The rights group is an independent federal body tasked with the promotion and protection of human rights that reports to the federal parliament.
The commission said it found that the food aid suspension contributed to hunger-related deaths and threatened to destabilize the already fragile refugee and host community relationship.
The federal government’s Refugee and Returnee Service (RRS) also reported hunger and hunger-related deaths following the food aid suspension in May and is closely working with the relevant UN agencies and humanitarian partners to address the situation by resuming food distribution for refugees as soon as possible.
It said an armed conflict in the Amhara region which has intensified since August and the continuing arrival of refugees from neighboring countries to the Amhara, Benishangul-Gumuz, Gambella and Somali regions has contributed to a further significant increase of the humanitarian needs.
The commission urged Ethiopian and humanitarian actors, in particular the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the United Nations World Food Programme (UNWFP), to ensure “the swift completion of ongoing efforts of coordination, resources mobilization and related administrative measures to allow for the immediate resumption of nutritionally adequate food assistance to all refugee communities.”
The food aid pause has continued to be maintained in Ethiopia since June and initially since April in the Tigray region until measures that can ensure effective distribution are put in place, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Ethiopia office.
However,humanitarian operations are gradually resuming in the Amhara region after a pause in several activities in August, according to the UN.