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Ethiopia says more aid trucks enter war-hit Tigray


Ethiopia said on Saturday that more than 150 aid trucks had entered war-torn Tigray over the past two days, after the United Nations warned of a “looming catastrophe” in the northern region.

A senior UN official said this week that a “de facto aid blockade” was exacerbating the humanitarian crisis in Tigray and that millions of people were on the brink of hunger.

And the African Union also urged the Ethiopian government to step up efforts to ensure aid access to the region that has been riven by 10 months of conflict.

Ethiopia’s Ministry of Peace said on Saturday there had been efforts since last week “to better coordinate and facilitate the movement of humanitarian aid” to Tigray.

It said in a statement posted on Twitter that about 500 trucks with food and other aid had entered the region, including 152 in the past two days, and that the number of checkpoints had been reduced to two from seven.

The conflict erupted in November when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent in troops to topple the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the regional ruling party, saying the move was in response to attacks on army camps.

Although the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner vowed a swift victory, the war has dragged on and spread into the neighbouring Afar and Amhara regions.

The Ethiopian authorities and Tigrayan rebels have repeatedly accused the other of obstructing humanitarian convoys trying to reach Tigray.

– ‘Worsen dramatically’ –

The UN’s humanitarian agency OCHA had said in a briefing note on Thursday that the only route to the region — the Semera-Abala corridor in Afar — had not been accessible since August 22.

It said Afar armed police had blocked a UN mission travelling to Abala on August 24 and forcefully entered UN vehicles to send them back to Semera, “verbally abusing, harassing and threatening” the team.

OCHA also complained that while there were twice-weekly UN flights from Addis Ababa to Tigray’s capital Mekele, there had been delays and all passengers including senior UN officials faced “intrusive and intensive searches” at the airport in the Ethiopian capital.

The UN’s Acting Humanitarian Coordinator for Ethiopia, Grant Leaity, warned Thursday that the situation in the north was set to “worsen dramatically” and called on all sides to allow in relief supplies “to avert this looming catastrophe”.

An estimated 5.2 million people, or 90 percent of the population in Tigray, urgently need assistance, he said, including 400,000 already facing famine-like conditions.

Millions were on the brink of going hungry, including 1.7 million people in Afar and Amhara, he added, saying “stocks of relief aid, cash and fuel are running very low or are completely depleted”.

The African Union — which is headquartered in Addis Ababa — on Friday also urged the Ethiopian government to do more to prevent starvation in the region.

Last month, the AU announced it had appointed former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo as mediator in the conflict, but the Tigrayan rebels accused the bloc of “partiality” towards the Ethiopian government.

bur-txw/yad



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