Relief agencies in Ethiopia are preparing to transport aid to the country’s disputed northern Tigray region, where a month of war may have killed thousands and worsened an existing humanitarian crisis.
The United Nations reached an agreement Wednesday with Ethiopia to provide humanitarian aid to the region, saying the deal would give aid workers access to government-controlled areas of Tigray, where federal troops have been fighting the Tigray regional government.
The pact allows food, medicine and other types of aid to be transported into the area of 6 million people for the first time since the fighting erupted on Nov. 4. Some 600,000 people in the region were already dependent on food aid before the conflict began.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed claimed victory over the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) after federal forces captured Tigray’s capital of Mekelle last weekend.
TPLF leaders, however, have established a presence in mountains surrounding the region as part of an apparent emerging guerrilla strategy.
An aid worker with sources in Tigray told Reuters that fighting continued in areas north, south and west of Mekelle.
Thousands of people are believed to have been killed in the war, which has displaced more than one million people, including 45,000 refugees who fled to neighboring Sudan.
Norwegian Refugee Council Secretary General Jan Egeland, who is visiting refugees this week at Sudan’s Um Rakuba camp, said in a statement Thursday that “Aid convoys are on standby; ready to move into Tigray and support families in need. Supplies are needed immediately as there is an acute shortage of food, medicine and other relief.”
The U.N. has been among a number of organizations calling for access to the region amid the growing humanitarian crisis after foreign workers were forced to evacuate.
Prime Minister Abiy has resisted international calls for de-escalation. Abiy’s government regards the Tigray regional government as illegitimate after months of escalating tensions as he tried to consolidate power under his newly formed Prosperity Party.
The Tigray regional government had dominated Ethiopia’s ruling coalition for more than a quarter-century.
Source: Voice of America