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Daily Noon Briefing Highlights: Ethiopia - South Sudan - Yemen

26 Jan 2021


A woman who fled conflict in the Tigray region of Ethiopia sits with her children in a temporary shelter in Um Rakuba refugee camp, Sudan, November 2020. © WFP/Arete/Ed Ram

Daily Noon Briefing Highlights – 26 January 2021


OCHA is receiving reports of rising hunger and malnutrition in Tigray region, Ethiopia.

Although it is still not possible to determine the full extent of the impact of the crisis on the food insecurity of the population, three months of conflict and the dire lack of access to food is exacerbating an already dire situation caused by COVID-19 and locust infestation.

Many farmers have missed the harvest season and with regional trade blocked, food is extremely scarce in the local markets.

While partial services have been restored in some major towns, electricity, banking, communication and transportation services have yet to be restored in most of the region. Access to cash and banking services is only available in Mekelle.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned about increasing risks of disease spread in the region as access remains a challenge. Some 78 per cent of the hospitals remain unfunctional, while medical supplies delivered are not sufficient. Clean water is another concern, as more than 300 water pumps are not functional across the region.

Overall, the humanitarian situation is dire and although movements of cargo carrying relief supplies have been increasingly allowed to enter the region, most of the critical staff that are needed to scale up the response, distribute and monitor distribution have not been able to access Tigray.

The UN continues to call for immediate, unimpeded and safe passage of humanitarian personnel and supplies to Tigray region to reach all people who need assistance.


South Sudan

Some 8.3 million people in South Sudan are estimated to be in need of humanitarian assistance in 2021, including 310,000 refugees and asylum seekers. This is an increase from the 7.5 million people in need in 2020.

Humanitarian needs in South Sudan are mainly driven by the impacts of years of conflict and exacerbated by the impact of climate change.

Hunger is growing, with more than 7.2 million people projected to be severely food insecure during 2021, and with some communities facing catastrophic levels of food insecurity.

COVID-19 has had a devastating and multi-faceted socioeconomic impact on people, including severe economic contractions, spikes in prices of basic commodities, loss of livelihoods particularly in urban areas, increased protection risks, and disrupted access to basic services.

The already serious humanitarian situation has been compounded by severe flooding, affecting approximately 1 million people each year in 2019 and 2020. The South Sudanese people also continue to be highly vulnerable to epidemic diseases, due to low immunization coverage, a weak health system and poor hygiene and sanitation.

Conflict, insecurity and natural disasters have displaced nearly 4 million people since 2013.

In 2020, the UN, along with its humanitarian partners, provided critical assistance – including food, nutrition, health and other support – to more than 6 million vulnerable people across South Sudan. Humanitarian organizations have started to scale up life-saving operations focused on vulnerable people in areas of most severe acute food insecurity.



In Yemen, the UN is aware of the new general licence issued by the US yesterday afternoon. This licence exempts all transactions with the Houthis from sanctions-related enforcement by US authorities until 26 February.

Yemen brings in nearly all its food and everything else by commercial imports. As the UN has said for months, it is the reaction of private companies all along the global supply chain that will determine life and death in the country.

Yemen’s heavy import-dependence is why the Security Council has unanimously agreed for years that commercial imports to Yemen through all ports must be protected. This is even more important now as famine is stalking the country.

The US announcement is still being digested by both aid agencies and the private sector. The UN has heard concerns that companies are still planning to cancel or suspend business given that this move does not resolve the underlying uncertainties.

With millions of civilians at risk of starvation, Yemen cannot afford even temporary disruptions in commercial activity, and it is not yet clear that the new licence will prevent those kinds of disruptions.

The UN continues to call for the reversal of the designations on humanitarian grounds.