Ethiopia and the United Nations have agreed to channel desperately-needed humanitarian aid to the northern region where a month of war has killed, wounded and uprooted thousands.
The pact, announced by UN officials, gives aid workers access to government-controlled areas of Tigray, where federal troops have been battling the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and captured the regional capital.
The war is believed to have killed thousands, sent 45,000 refugees into Sudan, displaced many more within Tigray and worsened suffering in a region where 600,000 people already depended on food aid even before the flare-up from Nov. 4.
The Ethiopian government said the regional capital Mekelle was seized over the weekend.
As hundreds of foreign workers were forced to leave, aid agencies had appealed for urgent safe access.
Food is running out for 96,000 Eritrean refugees in Tigray. Medics in the local capital Mekelle were short of painkillers, gloves and bodybags, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said at the weekend.
For weeks, the UN and others have pleaded for access amid reports of supplies running desperately low for millions of people. A UN humanitarian spokesman, Saviano Abreu, said the first mission to carry out a needs assessment would begin Wednesday.
“We are of course working to make sure assistance will be provided in the whole region and for every single person who needs it,” he said. The UN and partners are committed to engaging with “all parties to the conflict” to ensure that aid to Tigray and the neighboring Amhara and Afar regions is “strictly based on needs.”
Separately, a UN source told Reuters the organisation had established a logistics group with the government to ensure access.
“The U.N. and the Federal Government of Ethiopia have signed an agreement to ensure that humanitarians will have unimpeded, sustained and secure access… to areas under the control of the Federal Government in the Tigray Region,” U.N. humanitarian coordination agency OCHA said in a statement to Reuters.
However, the government in Addis Ababa is yet to confirm the deal has been reached.
Rita Osakwe/Agency Reports