On 7th December the Bishop of St Albans received written answers to questions on Ethiopia, armed conflict and food shortages:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to African members of the Commonwealth to encourage them to ensure a peaceful solution to the conflict in Tigray. [HL10708]
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: We are in touch with a range of partners, including Commonwealth members, on the current situation in Ethiopia. The Foreign Secretary spoke on 16 November with Foreign Minister Pandor of South Africa in support of President Ramaphosa’s efforts to promote mediation. He spoke with President Kenyatta of Kenya on 24 November. The Minister for Africa spoke with Foreign Minister Kutesa of Uganda on 26 November. We will continue to work with partners in the region and in the international community to urge all sides to protect civilians, avoid ethnic tensions and hate-speech and to allow humanitarian access. We stand with the international community in calling for de-escalation and a political solution.
Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the likelihood of (1) harvest failure, and (2) famine, in northern Ethiopia; and what steps they are taking to prepare humanitarian supplies for such an event. [HL10709]
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: Latest harvests across Tigray have been reasonable but food security is likely to become a concern in pockets of Tigray between February to May 2021. The ongoing violence and insecurity in the Tigray region is likely to affect food security, lower productivity and disrupt markets and supply chains. Our humanitarian partners are working to understand needs and stocks but access into the region is limited. We are concerned by the UN warning that refugee food stocks will be depleted very soon and 600,000 people who rely on monthly food assistance have not received rations for November. The situation is grave, and we assess that needs will increase unless security and access improve.
We have called on all involved to ensure the protection of civilians, and to restore humanitarian access to allow the delivery of aid and essential services. The Minister for Africa reiterated this in his tweet of 19 November and when the Minister for Africa spoke with the Ethiopian Ambassador in London on 18 November. We are contributing to UN-led planning efforts for the delivery of assistance in Tigray. In Ethiopia, the UK provides funds to the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP), UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) Ethiopian Humanitarian Fund, to provide food assistance, shelter, water and sanitation, health, nutrition and protection support. In Sudan, flexible UK funding to WFP and the UNHCR is already helping new refugees from Ethiopia to receive emergency assistance, including shelter and food. These agencies have proven themselves capable of working in high risk contexts, in Ethiopia and elsewhere, and for managing UK funds adeptly.