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Amhara region crisis under Abiy Ahmed rule

Amhara region has been involved in several crisis and related humanitarian consequences for years but before 2021, it was still one of the less volatile regions in the Northern Ethiopia until recent conflict between the Federal Army and Amhara Militia. The conflict is believed to be provoked since April 2023 following the killing of one senior government officinal and the government’s actions towards the implementation of peace agreement reached in November 2022, in Pretoria where government announced controversial plans to integrate regional special forces into other security institutions. A worrying security dynamic was since then established with continuous fighting between the federal forces and the local Fano militia. The situation gradually escalate to a very complex and volatile situation leading to several civilian deaths, injuries, displacements and complex humanitarian challenges and needs for thousands people across the region. Continuous isolated fighting and kidnapping in different parts of the region have hindered humanitarian access to affected communities and displaced persons.

In the week of 7th to 13th October, 27 clashes and 43 fatalities were experienced with an increase of 30% from the previous week. The deterioration of the situation and the fights trends observed since July continue.

Already in first week of August, up to 30 clashes were reported by ACLED. On 29 August, at least 183 people were reported as killed in clashes since July, according to information gathered by the UN Human Rights Office. Armed clashes are in an increasing curve with continuous reports of pockets fighting between parties has been increasing in many areas, especially since beginning of August 2023 when the towns were infiltrated by militias, particularly in Gonder, North Wollo, East and West Gojam, Bahir Dar, Gondar, Shewa and Robit, competing each other to control the major towns.

The state of emergency and imposed curfews declared on 4th August is maintained, aiming to restore security and stability in some areas. Despite the continuous calls by partners for peace negotiation for cease fire there hasn’t been any evidence for possible acceptance from both forces until now. The situation has worsened with blockade of internet communication, phones, transport, and socio-economical services in some areas for the last 3 months making the situation complex and difficult to monitor. Due the ongoing conflict, the region is facing accessibility challenges including transport, market, food insecurity, malnutrition, disease outbreaks, and lack of basic services. Following the initial scenario planning by ERCS (detailed in the imminent DREF rationale), the best case scenario were setting the peace dialogue to be successful by October which did not happen and from different sources unlikely to happen. The security situation is likely to remain volatile in the Amhara Region of Ethiopia due to ongoing military operations and failure of peace agreement. This require another approach to tackle the critical emergency needs where access made it feasible.

Scope and Scale

The Amhara conflict is a violate and complex situation involving ethnic, political, and historical factors with an alarming effect on the civilian communities and humanitarian situation across almost all the region. The situation started in April is now beyond 3 months since the emergency state declaration and highest cumulative clashes. The trends of fights remain in average the same over the past months situation but cumulative clashes and impact have led to a more complex and likely protracted situation. This force to update the planning, analysis to the current scenario.

For instance, armed clashes are in an increasing curve with continuous reports of pockets fighting between parties since the beginning of August 2023 when the towns were infiltrated by militias, particularly in Gonder, North Wollo, East and West Gojam, Bahir Dar, Gondar, Shewa robit, defeating each other to control the major towns. The current scale of the conflict in the region is covering 11 zones and 137 woredas, leading to the complex crisis experienced in these areas and across the region. According to Ethiopia Peace Observatory, (EPO) ACLED data for September, more than 158 political violence events and more than 1000 fatalities since the start of conflict (Source: Ethiopian Peace Observatory), with a high level of insecurity and humanitarian access complexity.

The displacement scenario foresee in August is now actual with side humanitarian and socio-economical effects. According to Amhara Region Humanitarian Situation Updates on Disaster Prevention and Food Security Program Coordination Commission by September 2023, more than 670,000 people had been displaced in 6 zones with multiple challenges. It is reported that 578,227 (89% of displaced people) are currently living in host communities and in forests running away from active clashes. This displacement crisis is a high concern in a country which previously rely on Amhara to host people fleeing conflict in surrounding regions. Amhara is the most populated regions with over 20 millions people and have been hosting more than 814,236 total IDPs from multiple regions include Oromia, Southern Nations & Nationalities, Benishangul Gumuz, Somali, and Tigray Region (Amhara zonal branches’ initial assessment conducted from 3 to 9 January 2023). The Sudanese refugees also adding to the displacement crisis scope.
The conflict is disproportionately affecting women, children, elderly and people with special needs. It has been reported that the conflict has brought severe violation of human rights causing deaths and gender-based violence (GBV) however, numbers are not identified due to blockade of communication and reporting.

The reports shared by phone and on physical meetings (at HQ) with the branches indicates increasing hostilities in different parts of Amhara, disrupting the critical humanitarian response in many woredas. Urgent humanitarian support including lifesaving drug supplies for health facilities, overwhelmed ambulance and first aid service, limited partners to provide food, safe and clean water, sanitation, hygiene services and mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS). The Limited internet connectivity and security issues including road blockage in parts of Amhara region are affecting humanitarian response activities and report completeness.

The situation has exacerbated other complexities in the region with epidemics such as malaria, measles and cholera affecting the existing vulnerable communities that have limited or no access to medical facilities. Most of the woredas reached by ERCS, have multiple challenges with no humanitarian services because of accessibility and insecurity situations.

Humanitarian access: The region has been experiencing kidnappings and protracted fighting limiting the access for humanitarian actors. This considered and taking into account the scale of the impacts and needs resulting from the context, there is a clear humanitarian demand for now limited to very few organization with access, include ERCS on which many actors also rely in.

All humanitarian actors have evacuated from the region and most of the services are suspended causing more dare situation to the IDP, injured and the most vulnerable groups who are not able to access services. Given the trend of the conflict, ERCS through its mandate and the existence in more than 70% coverage countrywide, has positioned itself to effectively respond to the current crisis, and is considered as most dependable partner to reach more inaccessible areas through its network of branches and volunteers.

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