Just one day after putting out a dire emergency warning, Ethiopia’s federal government has agreed to allow the United Nations “unimpeded” humanitarian access to parts of the northern Tigray region, according to a UN spokesperson.
The Tigray region has been entirely cut off from communication with the outside world, as well as any sort of humanitarian access, following an offensive by the federal government forces last month after it alleged the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) attacked government army bases in the region.
The UN said it signed a deal with the government that allows food, medicines, and other vital aid to the region. It estimated that some 600,000 people in the region are dependent on food and aid. The world body said this week that there was no more food to hand out as of Monday.
Tigray also hosts 100,000 Eritrean refugees who have been living in camps there for nearly 20 years.
“We are of course working to make sure assistance will be provided in the whole region and for every single person who needs it,” said Saviano Abreu, UN spokesperson.
The aid to would be going to Tigray and the neighboring Amhara and Afar regions. The UN and other aid agencies would be dealing with all parties in the conflict on a strictly needs-based platform which uphold the principles of humanity, impartiality, independence and neutrality.
Associated Press newswire said the Ethiopian government did not immediately comment on the news.
The UN’s Abreu says that a first mission would begin on Wednesday in order to carried out an immediate needs assessment.
Stopped at the border
Humanitarian groups and the UN have been stopped at the border for the past month trying to deliver vital supplies such as gloves and body bags, but have not been able to get through.
The UN has said that some one million people who were living in Tigray are now displaced, and there are reports that those who have fled the area under attack have been blocked from getting to eastern Sudan, where some 45,000 Ethiopians have taken refuge.
In the best tradition of African hospitality, Sudan has kept its borders open to thousands who have fled violence in Ethiopia’s Tigray region.
Although Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed declared “victory” over the weekend, the fighting reportedly continues.
Civilians are caught in the crossfire, whether remaining in Tigray or trying to leave. The UN said that the attacks have seriously damaged infrastructure, including the water supply, so those in Tigray are now drinking untreated water, which humanitarians fear could increase the risk of diseases like cholera.