UN aid chief wants more access to Ethiopia’s conflict zone – KEBRI DEHAR, Ethiopia (AFP)

September 2nd, 2008 Print Print Email Email

UN humanitarian chief John Holmes on Tuesday urged Ethiopia to grant aid groups access to conflict zones in the southern Ogaden region where the army is battling a rebel group.

Ethiopian military launched a crackdown last year on the region after the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) attacked a Chinese-run oil venture, killing 77 people.

Aid workers say the military operation has caused a humanitarian crisis, displacing hundreds of thousands of people, many of them fleeing to lawless neighbouring Somalia.

“There are still some areas (in Ogaden) where access is more limited because conflict is more active. That’s where we want to press (the governement) for more free access,” he told reporters during a fact-finding mission to the country. (more…)

UN humanitarian chief John Holmes on Tuesday urged Ethiopia to grant aid groups access to conflict zones in the southern Ogaden region where the army is battling a rebel group.

Ethiopian military launched a crackdown last year on the region after the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) attacked a Chinese-run oil venture, killing 77 people.

Aid workers say the military operation has caused a humanitarian crisis, displacing hundreds of thousands of people, many of them fleeing to lawless neighbouring Somalia.

“There are still some areas (in Ogaden) where access is more limited because conflict is more active. That’s where we want to press (the governement) for more free access,” he told reporters during a fact-finding mission to the country.

“We need to be allowed to work freely, do our assessments freely and be able to release data.”

But he conceded that aid agencies had unfettered access in one Ogaden region, Kebri Dehar. “It’s a lot better than it was when I was here last year.”

But he criticised inadequate civilian and human rights protection in Ogaden, a barren, impoverished region where the discovery of gas and oil has brought new hopes of wealth as well as new causes of conflict.

“We haven’t had a satisfaction that I would like on that and I have raised that question with the government,” he said.

Ethiopia has denied as exaggerated charges by aid groups that military operation has hampered delivery of aid to the region.

Holmes is on a three-day visit to Ethiopia, where 4.6 million people need emergency assistance and eight million others need immediate food relief due a severe drought, according to the UN humanitarian office (OCHA).

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