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Daily Noon Briefing Highlights: Ethiopia, Tonga

20 Jan 2022


Aid to Tigray has been affected. File photo of displaced families in Mekelle in 2021. Credit: OCHA/ Jordi Casafont

Daily Noon Briefing Highlights – 20 January 2022


The UN and its non-governmental organization partners are having to reduce, postpone or cancel critical distributions of assistance, including food, medicine, and nutrition interventions in Tigray.

This is because the transport of humanitarian supplies into Tigray, via the Semera-Abala-Mekelle corridor, remains suspended since 14 December, 2021 due to ongoing fighting in Abala, in Afar. No fuel for humanitarian operations has been allowed into Tigray along this route since 2 August, 2021 and organizations are also unable to secure sufficient fuel locally.

Between 6-12 January, about 10,500 people received food assistance in Tigray under the current food distribution cycle; over 800,000 people should be assisted each week. This is the lowest level of food assistance since operations expanded in March last year. Partners also reported that remaining food stocks can only assist 28,000 people.

A measles vaccination campaign launched in the first week of January continues reaching more than 145,000 children to date, out of nearly 800,000 in need. However, health partners report that the campaign is facing serious challenges, including a lack of fuel and cash, limited cold chain capacity, and shortages of health care workers.

 Meanwhile, the humanitarian response is being scaled up in accessible areas in Amhara and Afar. In Amhara, more than 578,000 people received food assistance in the past week, and more than 40,000 received shelter and non-food items. Internally displaced persons continue to return to their places of origin in Amhara, with hundreds of thousands of people estimated to have returned. Assessments of returns and the humanitarian situation in areas of return is ongoing. In Afar, more than 47,000 people received food assistance in the past week. And 30 mobile health and nutrition teams continue to essential nutrition services in remote and conflict-affected communities.


Two relief flights from New Zealand and Australia landed on 20 January at Tonga’s International Airport, hours after the airport was re-opened to traffic.  The planes brought in much-needed humanitarian assistance and relief supplies including water and sanitation hygiene, shelter, and communication equipment as well as power generators. 
Assessment teams have reached most parts of the country, including remote and isolated islands. National disaster authorities and partners, including the Tongan Red Cross Society, are carrying out initial damage assessments in the main island of Tongatapu (with the capital Nuku’alofa) and on the Ha’apai group of islands. UN staff in Tonga are supporting the government’s assessment and response efforts and will support the distribution of in-country stocks once humanitarian needs are identified.

On 19 January, the UN Resident Coordinator received a request from the Government of Tonga for urgent assistance. The Emergency Telecommunications Cluster is coordinating with local, regional and global partners on the deployment of critical communications equipment. This will ensure that the government and responders have access to communication tools to coordinate the response and allow affected people to contact family.

Access to safe water for 50,000 people throughout the island nation remains a serious concern. Water quality testing is ongoing, with most people relying on bottled water. Water and water purification units and desalination equipment are being shipped to Tonga. Oxfam is operating a water treatment unit. An estimated 60,000 people have been affected by the damage to the agricultural sector (crops, livestock, fisheries) due to ashfall, saltwater intrusion and the potential of acid rain. There are also reports of a fuel shortage, but petrol supplies are coming in as part of a regular shipment and with thanks to additional support from Australia.