Ethiopia: First aid shipment arrives in Tigray after landmark ceasefire

Delivery of 40 tonnes of medical aid hailed as 'enormous relief' following two years of siege in country's northern region

A convoy of lorries from the International Committee of the Red Cross deliver lifesaving medical supplies to Mekelle in the Tigray region.  Reuters
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The first aid in months has arrived in Ethiopia's Tigray region, aid groups said on Tuesday.

A convoy carrying 40 tonnes of essential medicine and surgical equipment arrived in the regional capital of Mekele on Tuesday, the International Committee of the Red Cross said.

The organisation's Ethiopia head hailed the delivery as an “enormous relief” following two years of siege in the country's northern region, in a bloody conflict which has killed about 600,000 people.

Two million were displaced in the two years of fighting between the federal government and Tigray forces. A blockade was enforced on the region, home to 5 million, sparking famine and a dire healthcare shortage.

“The healthcare system in the region is under extreme pressure and these deliveries are a lifeline for people who need medical help,” said the ICRC's Nicolas von Arx.

It is the first aid delivery since a previous ceasefire broke down in August, said the aid group.

Earlier this month, the warring sides agreed to end hostilities following African Union-brokered talks in South Africa. On Sunday, an accord was signed in Nairobi to provide humanitarian access to Tigray. The government has said it now controls 70 per cent of Tigray, and claims aid is “flowing like no other time.”

Last week, the World Health Organisation called for a massive influx of food and medicines into the region, saying desperately-needed aid had not yet been allowed to get through.

“Many people are dying from treatable diseases. Many people are dying from starvation,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who is from Tigray, said at a press conference.

Before the accord, doctors in the besieged region had warned of severe shortages and people dying of preventable diseases.

In August, the UN said at least 400,000 people in Tigray were living in “famine-like” conditions, with humanitarian efforts hindered by “delays and arbitrary restrictions” and the government using starvation as a weapon of war.

The fighting in Tigray has drained $1 billion from the country's reserves, said Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

The conflict began after Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops into Tigray in 2020, after accusing the Tigray People's Liberation Front — a group that spent decades at the centre of Ethiopian politics — of attacking federal army camps.

The AU is monitoring implementation of the ceasefire, which was hailed as a “new dawn” for Ethiopia and the wider region.

Updated: November 15, 2022, 5:53 PM