WFP says food Aid into Ethiopia’s Tigray ‘not matching needs’

An aid worker distributes measured portions of yellow lentils to residents of Geha subcity at an aid operation run by USAID, Catholic Relief Services and the Relief Society of Tigray on June 16, 2021. Photo: Jemal Countess/Getty Images

ADDIS ABABA: The World Food Programme (WFP) said aid deliveries into Tigray were “not matching the needs” of the stricken region even as a ceasefire takes hold in war-torn northern Ethiopia.

Restoring aid deliveries to Tigray was a key part of an agreement signed on Nov. 2 to end a two-year war that has killed untold numbers of people and unleashed a humanitarian crisis.

The WFP said all four road corridors into Tigray had reopened since the ceasefire and humanitarian flights were flying into major cities, allowing a significant uptick in aid supplies reaching the region.

“However, deliveries of assistance within Tigray are not matching the needs and WFP and its cooperating partners urgently need access to all parts of the region,” the UN food agency said in a statement on Friday.

Aid into the region ground to a halt in late August when fighting resumed between the Ethiopian government and their allies, and fighters loyal to Tigray’s rebellious authorities.

Even before the suspension of aid, the UN had warned many in Tigray already faced starvation, with some 90 percent of its 6 million people dependent on food assistance.

The region was isolated from the world for over a year and faced severe shortages of medicines and limited access to electricity, banking, and communications.

Since Nov. 15 when road access improved, WFP said nearly 100 trucks had transported 2,400 metric tons of food and 100,000 liters of fuel into the region.

Humanitarian flights carrying passengers to Mekele, the regional capital, resumed Friday for the first time since August after receiving government approval. Aid charters into Shire, a northern city, have also commenced for the first time ever.

But despite improved access, WFP said “some parts of eastern and central zones of Tigray remain constrained,” hindering sufficient aid delivery.
“Since the start of November, WFP has reached 29 percent of its caseload of 2.1 million people with food assistance in the Tigray region,” it said.

WFP said an estimated 13.6 million people across Tigray and its neighboring regions of Amhara and Afar were dependent on humanitarian aid as a result of the war, which broke out in November 2020.

Tigray’s authorities had been resisting central rule for months when Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed accused their leadership of attacking federal army camps and sending troops into the region.

The two parties signed a peace deal in South Africa on Nov. 2 that agreed to unfettered aid into Tigray.

Tadesse Worede, chief of staff of Tigray’s fighters, said on November 22 that combat had ceased in the region since the deal was reached.

But government allies, including Eritrea’s army and militias from the Amhara region, remain present in some parts of Tigray.

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