The United Nations has signed a deal with Ethiopia’s government to allow “unimpeded” humanitarian access to the embattled Tigray region – at least the parts under federal government control.
This will allow the first aid to reach the region of six million people that has been cut off during fighting that began a month ago between the federal and Tigray regional governments.
Each regards the other as illegal in a power struggle that has been months in the making.
For weeks, the UN and others have pleaded for aid access amid reports that food, medicines and other supplies are running out.
Aid-laden trucks have been blocked at Tigray’s borders, and humanitarian groups were increasingly anxious to get unfettered, neutral access to Tigray.
UN humanitarian spokesman Saviano Abreu said the first mission to carry out an assessment of needs in the region will begin on Wednesday following the agreement.
He said: “We are of course working to make sure assistance will be provided in the whole region and for every single person who needs it.”
The UN and partners are committed to engaging with “all parties to the conflict to ensure that humanitarian action in Tigray, Amhara and Afar regions be strictly based on needs and carried out in compliance with the globally agreed principles of humanity, impartiality, independence and neutrality”, he added.
Aid official Jan Egeland, of the Norwegian Refugee Council, said: “We have been urging, waiting, begging for access. We’re ready to go… It has been heart-breaking to be forced to wait.”
More than one million people in Tigray are now thought to be displaced, including 45,000 who have fled into a remote area of neighbouring Sudan.