A convoy of aid trucks has arrived in Tigray, the first emergency food supplies to reach the besieged region of northern Ethiopia by road for more than 100 days.
Two weeks after Abiy Ahmed’s government declared an immediate “humanitarian truce” with rebel Tigrayan forces to allow aid in, the World Food Programme said it had received the assurances it needed to dispatch 20 trucks containing vital supplies of food.
Since mid-December no aid has reached Tigray on the land route from Semera, in neighbouring Afar, to Mekelle, the capital of Tigray. In a video posted online earlier on Friday, WFP said the convoy contained 500 metric tons of food and nutrition supplies “for communities on the edge of starvation”.
A fuel tanker followed behind but had not yet entered Tigray, a spokesperson added.
The UN has accused the Ethiopian government of placing Tigray under a de facto blockade for months, squeezing the civilian population of basic resources as it wages war against Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) forces.
The authorities in Addis, meanwhile, have accused the TPLF of bringing misery upon their own people by conducting military offensives on key aid delivery routes.
Thousands have died and many more been forced to flee their homes in the 16-month war and, as it drags on, the civilian population remaining in Tigray is considered desperately in need of food, fuel and medical supplies. According to an assessment in January, at least 2 million people are suffering from an extreme lack of food.
Since January some medical and nutrition supplies have been trickling in by air, but the UN says they are a fraction of what is needed. On a series of flights since 24 January, roughly 360 metric tons of supplies have been delivered – about nine trucks’ worth, according to the UN office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs.
In a move that took many by surprise, Abiy’s government declared a truce on 24 March, saying it hoped the move would ease humanitarian access to Tigray and “pave the way for the resolution of the conflict”. It called on the TPLF to “desist from all acts of further aggression and withdraw from areas they have occupied in neighbouring regions”.
The rebels in turn urged “Ethiopian authorities to go beyond empty promises and take concrete steps to facilitate unfettered humanitarian access to Tigray”.