UN, Ethiopia strike a deal over support employees’ entry to Tigray | Humanitarian Crises Information
The United Nations Food Agency claims to have reached an agreement with Ethiopia to expand access for aid workers and to expand operations in the conflict-affected Tigray region of the country.
David Beasley, the head of the World Food Program (WFP), made the announcement late Saturday as fears of a humanitarian disaster in Tigray, a region of more than five million people, increased.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered air strikes and a ground offensive against Tigray’s former ruling party – the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) – on November 4 after its armed forces attacked federal army bases in the northern region. Abiy declared victory on November 28 after the TPLF withdrew from the regional capital Mekelle and other capitals, but low-level fighting continued.
Thousands of people are believed to have died and hundreds of thousands have fled their homes since the fighting began. Both sides deny that their forces committed atrocities and accuse their rivals of killing civilians.
High-ranking UN officials and international NGOs have repeatedly complained about restricted access to Tigray.
The government and the WFP have “agreed specific steps to expand humanist access across Tigray, and the WFP will expand its activities,” Beasley said on Twitter after visiting the Mekelle.
“Almost 3 million people need our help NOW and we have no time to waste,” he added.
Major Breakthroughs in #Ethiopia Today! @WFP and the Ethiopian government have agreed specific steps to expand humanist access across #Tigray, and WFP will expand its activities. Almost 3 million people need our help NOW and we have no time to lose. pic.twitter.com/u3y919K3bK
– David Beasley (@WFPChief) February 6, 2021
A WFP statement said Ethiopian officials agreed to expedite the review of aid workers’ requests to move to the disputed region.
The WFP’s statement also stated that the agreement approved government proposals to provide food aid to one million people in Tigray and help transport them to hard-to-reach rural areas.
Ethiopian Peace Minister Muferihat Kamil said in a separate statement that the government would “urgently approve requests for international personnel movements in and within Tigray”.
According to the WFP declaration, the new conditions fall “under the existing agreement” between the government and the United Nations on aid.
This agreement restricted the United Nations’ access to areas under state control. According to the government, a UN team visiting refugees in the Tigray region was shot at in early December after failing to stop at two checkpoints.
However, a senior UN official told AFP that the progress was still “substantial” and would facilitate access to Tigray.
“It’s not good enough just to stick to the safe routes, the safe routes,” the official said. “Our job is to be determined to get where the last person in need is, and the presence of militias shouldn’t really get in our way.”
The WFP statement stated that “armed escorts will be used as a last resort for humanitarian cargo and personnel”.
Tigray remains largely cut off from the media, which makes it difficult to assess the situation on the ground.
The UN official stated that “unsafe areas [are] were “many and important”.
A new UN report earlier this month said the lives of civilians in Tigray have become “extremely alarming” amid growing hunger and a “volatile and unpredictable” security situation.
“Reports from local aid workers indicate an increase in acute malnutrition in the region,” the Associated Press said. “Only 1 percent of the nearly 920 nutritional treatment facilities in Tigray are accessible.”
Hunger has also become a major problem. “Many households are expected to have already run out of food supplies or to have run out of food supplies in the next two months,” reads a new report released Thursday by the Famine Early Warning Systems Network, funded by and is administered The United States.
According to the report, more parts of central and eastern Tigray are likely to enter Emergency Phase 4, one step below the famine, in the coming weeks.
The government has downplayed fears of widespread hunger while touting its own efforts to meet the needs of the population. It is said to have provided emergency food aid to 1.8 million people.
During a visit to Ethiopia last week, UN refugee chief Filippo Grandi emphasized the need for a more efficient system to facilitate access for aid workers and the distribution of aid.
“We have heard from everywhere, including local authorities, that more is needed,” said Grandi.
“As I said, the situation is very serious, very urgent. Without further action, it will get worse. “