Somalilandsun: The suspension of two major international relief organisations in Ethiopia could further worsen the humanitarian situation in Tigray, where an aid blockade is still effectively in place, even as conflict spreads into neighbouring regions and hundreds of thousands of people face famine.

The blockade, and a cash crunch caused by limited banking services in Tigray, have left aid groups struggling to function, and led to increased concerns about the welfare of the roughly 500 aid workers – both national and international – based in the region.

The risks are highest for Tigrayan staff who cannot easily leave the country and would be particularly vulnerable should federal forces retake the region, humanitarian officials told The New Humanitarian. Some have been displaced during the conflict and have lost family members and friends.

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and the Dutch section of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) confirmed last week that they had been barred from operating across the country for three months, with the government accusing them of “disseminating misinformation”.

Several aid officials working on the Tigray response told The New Humanitarian they were unsure how to interpret the timing of the suspensions but believe the organisations have been singled out either for their humanitarian work or for running advocacy campaigns the government didn’t like.

MSF was one of the main organisations delivering health services in Tigray, while NRC – which supported nearly 600,000 Ethiopians – was among the most outspoken agencies working on the crisis. A third group – the Dubai-based Al Maktoum Foundation – was also suspended, for “budget mismanagement”.

The government said it had held “repeated discussions” with the aid agencies prior to suspending them, but issues weren’t fixed.

‘The message is that if you want to continue your programme… then you will be silent.’ says  Philip Kleinfeld Correspondent and Editor, Africa the New Humanitarian in a story titled Tigray aid response hit by suspensions, blockade