Addis Ababa, Ethiopia ( Associated Press) – A convoy of trucks carrying food aid entered an area controlled by fighters loyal to fugitive leaders in Ethiopia’s Tigre region on Friday, the first humanitarian convoy to do so since Dec. 14, the United Nations said. World Food Program said.
The trucks arrived eight days after Ethiopia’s federal government announced an immediate humanitarian ceasefire. The United Nations estimates that 90% of the Tigre’s six million people are in urgent need of humanitarian aid. It states that 100 trucks will have to enter every day to feed the people there.
“WFP-led convoys for Tigre are back on the road and making steady progress,” the agency tweeted. It said the trucks “arrived in Erepti” carrying more than 500 metric tons of food supplies “to communities on the edge of hunger”.
Erepti is a district in the neighboring state of Afar, in which war has erupted in recent months. Fighters loyal to the Tigre People’s Liberation Front, or TPLF – the outlawed party of Tigre leaders – are present in six districts of Afar, which entered the region in December.
TPLF spokesman Getachev Reda tweeted that 20 WFP trucks had entered an area controlled by their fighters and are now on their way to the Tigre capital, Mekele.
Tigre fighters said that if aid began to reach Tigre, they would follow a humanitarian struggle declared by the government.
“It’s a good step in the right direction,” Getachev said. “However, the bottom line is not how many trucks are allowed, but is there a system to ensure unfettered human access to the needy!”
Ethiopian officials on Thursday urged humanitarian groups to “air aid supplies as much as possible.”
Government spokesman Legacy Tulu repeatedly demanded on Friday that Tigre fighters withdraw from the Afar and Amhara regions.
“We call on the international community to put pressure on the TPLF warriors,” he told the Associated Press.
In recent months, some food and nutrition supplies have flowed into the Tigre, but these represent a fraction of the region’s needs. Banking services and phone lines have also come to a standstill in Tigre.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said on Thursday that several agencies have been “forced to suspend operations due to (a) lack of supplies, cash and fuel.”