Nairobi, Kenya (AP) — The largest aid convoy since the Ethiopian government Declare a unilateral ‘humanitarian ceasefire’ A United Nations official told The Associated Press that the Tigray region, which had been under siege in the country two months ago, had set off for Tigray as the conflict continued to de-escalate in Africa’s second most populous country.
The convoy of 215 food aid trucks left the neighbouring Afar regional capital on Friday and will arrive in the capital of Tigray on Saturday. On Thursday, an Associated Press witness observed many trucks lining up on the road outside Semera, waiting for permission to leave.
But rescuers say more is needed. The United Nations’ World Food Program estimates that 500 trucks are needed each week to feed Tigray’s 5.2 million people, who need food, medicine and other humanitarian aid but have been largely denied it for nearly a year.
The Ethiopian government declared a humanitarian ceasefire in March to allow aid to reach Tigray, whose leaders have been at war with federal forces and their allies since November 2020, killing thousands. In response, Tigray forces said they would observe a cessation of hostilities.
Initially, aid was slow to arrive, with several trucks arriving in Tigray in the first weeks of the truce, prompting Tigray’s side to accuse the government of desertion. But the number of rescue trucks has increased dramatically since Tigray’s forces announced their withdrawal from parts of Afar in late April.
Humanitarian workers say federal authorities have now eased previous restrictions on aid to the area. Tigray has been largely cut off from the world since June 2021, when Tigray forces recaptured the regional capital, Merkel, in a situation that the EU’s humanitarian chief has likened to a “siege”.
The United States has warned that 700,000 people in Tigray could face famine due to aid restrictions. A recent investigation by the Tigray Regional Health Authority found that at least 1,900 children under the age of five died from malnutrition between June and April 1 last year.
Tigray’s banking services, road connections and telecommunications remain closed.
But for humanitarian aid, the only remaining delivery issues are operational issues, including the number of trucks available and how quickly partners organize aid, the UN official said on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak to the media.
However, the official said, four trucks with high-energy biscuits were recently turned away by customs officials who they claimed could be used to feed Tigray forces.