Ethiopia’s Tigray still awaiting humanitarian aid, agencies say

Ethiopia’s Tigray still awaiting aid, agencies say, as US urges immediate help.

A truck driver in a 130-truck aid convoy directed to Ethiopia's Tigray region leaves the outskirts of Semera, Afar region, Ethiopia, on May 15, 2022 [Michele Spatari/AFP]

Aid to Ethiopia’s war-ravaged Tigray region is yet to resume despite a recent truce, international humanitarian agencies have said, even as the United States has urged Addis Ababa to respect the agreement and allow assistance.

Under a ceasefire agreement signed on November 2 between Ethiopia’s government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the party that controls Tigray, the federal government pledged to work with humanitarian agencies to expedite the provision of aid.

But it did not commit to a specific timeline and it has denied blocking aid.

On Friday, Ethiopia’s chief negotiator said essential services were being restored and humanitarian aid was flowing into the region of some 5.5 million people, half of them in severe need of food after the two-year conflict.

The two sides are currently negotiating the implementation of that agreement, including the resumption of aid deliveries.

International aid agencies say they have been blocked from sending assistance into Tigray for much of the conflict.

Three officials at international humanitarian organisations said despite the truce, their convoys were still waiting for permission from authorities to cross into the area.

The US Department of State’s Bureau of African Affairs urged a swift resolution.

“Vulnerable Ethiopians in Tigray, Afar, and Amhara need aid now,” it said on Twitter, referring to the neighbouring regions affected by the war. “Waiting urgently for actions to respect and implement the agreement.”

It also quoted the Ethiopian government’s lead negotiator, Redwan Hussein, as saying during continuing talks in Nairobi that aid would flow unhindered “by week’s end”.

Redwan, who is also the national security adviser, insisted on Friday that there was “no hindrance whatsoever regarding aid”.

“Aid is flowing like no other times,” he said on Twitter, adding that 35 trucks with food and three trucks with medicine had arrived in the northern city of Shire and services were being reconnected.

Another official familiar with the humanitarian situation said, however, Redwan may have been talking about Ethiopian trucks, while international agencies could not move freely.

Redwan did not respond to a request for comment.

Ethiopia’s National Disaster Risk Management Commission, which coordinates Ethiopian aid, said it would provide an update later on Friday.

The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Ethiopia did not respond to a request for comment.

Against this backdrop, the African Union-mediated talks between Ethiopia’s government and representatives from Tigray continued in Nairobi on Friday, with military commanders trying to work out details of the disarmament of Tigray forces. The resumption of aid deliveries was also on the agenda.

Observers have expressed concerns about when Eritrean and other forces that were not party to the ceasefire will withdraw. Eritrea’s government has said nothing about whether it would withdraw its troops and abide by the ceasefire agreement.

Source: Reuters