NAIROBI, Kenya ( Associated Press) — The largest convoy of aid since Ethiopia’s government unilaterally announced a “humanitarian ceasefire” A United Nations official told The Associated Press that the departure for Tigre two months ago in the country’s long-settled Tigre region comes as conflict eases in Africa’s second most populous country.
A convoy of 215 trucks carrying food aid left the capital of the neighboring Afar region on Friday and is due to reach the capital of Tigre on Saturday. An Associated Press witness saw several trucks parked on the road outside Semera on Thursday as they waited for clearance to leave.
But aid workers say more is needed. The United Nations World Food Program estimates that 5.2 million people in the Tigre need food, medicine and other humanitarian aid, but have been largely denied it for nearly a year.
Ethiopia’s government in March announced a humanitarian ceasefire to deliver aid to Tigre, whose leaders have been engaged in a war against federal forces and their allies since November 2020, killing thousands. In response, Tigre forces stated that they would observe a cessation of hostilities.
Initially, aid was slow to arrive, with a handful of trucks reaching Tigre in the first weeks after the armistice, prompting the Tigre side to accuse the government of being renegade. But the number of aid trucks has increased sharply since the Tigre forces announced their withdrawal from parts of Afar in late April.
Humanitarian activists say federal officials have now eased restrictions previously imposed on aid to the region. The Tigre has been largely cut off from the world since Tigre forces recaptured the regional capital Mekele in June 2021, a situation the EU’s humanitarian chief likened to a “siege”.
The United States has warned that as many as 700,000 people in the Tigre could face famine due to the aid ban. A recent survey by Tigre’s regional health bureau found that between June and April 1 last year, at least 1,900 children under the age of 5 died of malnutrition.
Tigre’s banking services, road connectivity and telecommunications services have come to a standstill.
But for humanitarian aid, the only delivery issues are operational ones including the number of trucks available and how quickly partners can organize the aid, the UN official said on condition of anonymity because the person spoke to the media. was not authorized.
However, the official said that four trucks carrying high-energy biscuits were recently turned back by customs officials, who claimed that the biscuits could be used to feed Tigre forces.