Panafrican News Agency

Ethiopian crisis: US calls on Addis Ababa to allow humanitarian assistance into Tigray

Washington, US (PANA) - The U.S. is calling on the Ethiopian government to immediately allow humanitarian assistance to swiftly move into the troubled northern region of Tigray to prevent a catastrophic stop to food assistance that millions need to survive.

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) said in a statement that despite "the small trickle of convoys" into Tigray and an average of two UN Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) flights per week to the Tigray regional capital, Mekelle, during the first half of August, the flow of humanitarian assistance remains "woefully insufficient".

"This shortage is not because food is unavailable, but because the Ethiopian government is obstructing humanitarian aid and personnel, including land convoys and air access" the USAID Administrator, Samantha Power, said. 

She said in Tigray, where hundreds of thousands are facing famine, food warehouses are virtually empty, stressing that this week, for the first time in nine months of conflict, aid workers will run out of food to distribute to the millions of people who are going hungry.

Ms. Power said humanitarian organizations have food loaded onto trucks, and they are waiting in Semera, Afar, and other places in Ethiopia, but for the last month-and-a-half only a small trickle of aid convoys has been allowed into Tigray.

She said to meet the vast humanitarian needs in Tigray, 100 trucks carrying tons of food and life-saving supplies need to arrive each day, which should have meant a total of 5,000 trucks since 1 July.

However, as of a few days ago, only around 320 had arrived—less than 7 percent of what is required.

"While the Government of Ethiopia has been quick to hail the limited aid as a positive step, it is far too little and far too late. People in Tigray are starving with up to 900,000 in famine conditions and more than five million in desperate need of humanitarian assistance."

Ms. Power said humanitarian workers continue to face entirely too many hurdles to make aid convoys happen.

"They have encountered unacceptable delays at multiple checkpoints, some of which take hours to clear, as well as repeated intensive searches.

"Aid workers are harassed, and we have seen an increase in troubling and harmful rhetoric coming from the Ethiopian government against humanitarians."

Ms Power said instead, they need to see action from the government of Ethiopia that will enable humanitarians to do their jobs and save lives.

She stressed that fuel deliveries, electricity, telecommunications, and banking services must all be immediately restored and maintained, and humanitarians and relief supplies need to be allowed to move quickly, regularly, and unimpeded into Tigray.

In addition, restrictions on aid organizations bringing cash and telecommunications equipment into Tigray need to be lifted in order to facilitate the delivery of lifesaving assistance.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on 4 November 2020 ordered a military offensive after forces of the regional party, the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) attacked a federal army base. 

Fighting has sparked massive displacement, widespread destruction of livelihoods and infrastructure, loss of employment and a huge humanitarian crisis.

The Ethiopian government has declared a unilateral ceasefire but the TPLF has brushed this aside and its forces have been battling their way into neighbouring Amhara and Afar regions.

Ms. Power said the offensive of the TPLF, that has captured Mekelle, will only prolong this conflict and the suffering of the Ethiopian people.

"The United States urges the TPLF to halt its offensive and withdraw its forces immediately from the Amhara and Afar regions, the Amhara regional government to withdraw its forces from western Tigray, and the Eritrean government to withdraw its forces immediately and permanently from Ethiopia," the US said.

Ms. Power asked all parties to allow humanitarian aid to reach the people whose survival depends on it, and they must end hostilities and commit to a negotiated ceasefire.

-0- PANA MA/AR 20Aug2021