Ethiopia's government declares 'indefinite humanitarian truce'

It says it hopes to hasten the delivery of vital emergency aid to the Tigray region and provide for thousands facing starvation

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Ethiopia's government on Thursday declared “an indefinite humanitarian truce effective immediately”, saying it hoped to hasten the delivery of emergency aid into the Tigray region, where hundreds of thousands face starvation.

“To optimise the success of the humanitarian truce, the government calls upon the insurgents in Tigray to desist from all acts of further aggression and withdraw from areas they have occupied in neighbouring regions,” the government said in a statement.

The government said Tigray’s forces must reciprocate the truce for the situation to improve in the region and called for further humanitarian support.

“The government calls upon the donor community to redouble their generous contributions to alleviate the situation and reiterates its commitment to work in collaboration with relevant organisations to expedite the provision of humanitarian assistance to those in need.”

Nearly 40 per cent of the people in Tigray, a region of six million people, face “an extreme lack of food”, the UN said in January, with fuel shortages forcing aid workers to deliver medicines and other crucial supplies by foot.

More than nine million people need food aid across Afar, Amhara and Tigray, according to the UN's World Food Programme.

But humanitarian organisations have been forced to increasingly curtail activities because of fuel and supply shortages.

“WFP operations in the Tigray region have ground to a halt, with only emergency fuel stocks and less than 1 per cent of the required food stocks remaining,” the agency said this week.

A TPLF push into Afar has worsened the situation, driving up the need for emergency aid in the region.

The road from Afar's capital, Semera, to Tigray's capital Mekele is the only operational land route into Tigray, where the UN estimates hundreds of thousands are living in famine-like conditions.

The government previously declared a “unilateral ceasefire” in Tigray in June last year, after the TPLF mounted a shock comeback and retook the region from federal forces.

But fighting intensified in the second half of 2021, with the rebels at one point claiming to be within 200 kilometres of the capital Addis Ababa, before reaching a stalemate.

The conflict in northern Ethiopia began in November 2020 when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops to disarm and detain the region's dissident leadership.

The violence has claimed thousands of lives, and both sides have been repeatedly accused of human rights violations and atrocities.

In March, UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet reported that at least 304 civilians were killed and 373 injured between late November and late February in aerial bombardments apparently carried out by the Ethiopian military.

Updated: March 24, 2022, 4:19 PM