Richmond Times-Dispatch

U.N., Ethiopia reacha deal to aid Tigray

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NAIROBI, Kenya— In a breakthrou­gh amonth after deadly conflict cut off Ethiopia’s Tigray region from the world, the United Nations on Wednesday said it and the Ethiopian government had signed a deal to allow unimpeded humanitari­an access, at least for areas under federal control after the prime minister’s declaratio­n of victory over the weekend.

This will allow the first food, medicines and other aid into the region of 6 million that has seen rising hunger during the fighting between the federal and Tigray regional government­s. Each regards the other as illegal in a power struggle that has been brewing for months.

For weeks, the U.N. and others have pleaded for access amid reports of supplies running desperatel­y low for millions of people. A U.N. humanitari­an spokesman, Saviano Abreu, said the first mission to carry out a needs assessment would begin Wednesday.

“We are, of course, working to make sure as

sistance will be provided in the whole region and for every single person who needs it,” he said. The U.N. and partners are committed to engaging with all parties to ensure that aid to Tigray and the neighborin­g Amhara and Afar regions is “strictly based on needs.”

The central government did not immediatel­y comment.

For weeks, aid-laden trucks have been blocked at Tigray’s borders, and the U.N. and other humanitari­an groups were increasing­ly eager to reach Tigray as hunger grows and hospitals run out of basic supplies like

gloves and body bags.

“We literally have staff reaching out to us to say they have no food for their children,” one humanitari­an worker said. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivit­y of the situation.

“We have been urging, waiting, begging for access,” said another aid official, Jan Egeland of the Norwegian Refugee Council. “We’re ready to go tomorrow. ... It has been heartbreak­ing to be forced to wait.”

More than 1million people in Tigray are now thought to be displaced, including over 45,000 who have fled into a remote area of neighborin­g Sudan. Humanitari­ans have struggled to feed them as they set up a crisis response from scratch.

Communicat­ions and transport links remain almost completely severed to Tigray, and the fugitive leader of the defiant regional government this week told the AP that fighting continues despite Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s declaratio­n of victory.

It remains almost impossible to verify either side’s claims as the conflict threatens to destabiliz­e both the country and the entire Horn of Africa.

For weeks, the U.N. and others have been increasing­ly insistent on the need to reach the 600,000 people in Tigray who already were dependent on food aid even before the conflict.

Now those needs have exploded, but Abiy has resisted internatio­nal pressure for dialogue and de-escalation, saying his government will not “negotiate our sovereignt­y.”

His government regards the Tigray regional government, which dominated Ethiopia’s ruling coalition for more than a quarter-century, as illegitima­te after months of growing friction as he sought to centralize power.

Amid the warring sides’ claims and countercla­ims, one thing is clear: Civilians have suffered.

The U.N. says food has run out for the nearly 100,000 refugees from Eritrea whose camps close to the Tigray border with Eritrea have been in the line of fire as the fighting swept through. Reports that some refugees have been killed or abducted, if true, “would be major violations of internatio­nal norms,” the U.N. refugee chief said over the weekend in an urgent appeal to Abiy.

With infrastruc­ture there and elsewhere in Tigray damaged, the U.N. has said some people are now drinking untreated water, increasing the risk of diseases.

No one knows the true toll of the fighting. Human rights and humanitari­an groups have reported several hundred people killed, including civilians, but many more deaths are feared.

 ?? THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? Refugees who fled the Tigray conflict arrive on the banks of the Tekeze River on the Sudanese-Ethiopian border.
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Refugees who fled the Tigray conflict arrive on the banks of the Tekeze River on the Sudanese-Ethiopian border.

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