Tesfay sits with his wife and grandchildren, who have been displaced, as they receive food assistance for the first time in 8 months from the World Food Program (WFP), in Mehameday, in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, May 28, 2022.
GENEVA — A senior UNICEF official says humanitarian aid is flowing into previously inaccessible areas in northern Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region. He says lifesaving aid is reaching hundreds of thousands of people in need thanks to the government’s humanitarian truce with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. Researchers at Ghent University in Belgium estimate as many as half a million people have died from war, starvation, and other indirect causes in Tigray. This, since Ethiopian military forces invaded the region November 4, 2020, in response to attacks by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.
In an interview with VOA from his office in Addis Ababa, UNICEF’s representative in Ethiopia, Gianfranco Rotigliano, says there has been a change since the government truce was declared in March. He says 170 trucks rolled into previously blockaded areas in April and expects that number to increase to more than 1,000 trucks a month.
Rotigliano describes the needs as immense. He says more than five million people in Tigray require international aid, as well as an additional seven million people in the conflict-affected Amhara and Afar regions.
“We have great needs in terms of repairing infrastructures that were looted, that were destroyed… and the, you know the lack of supplies in certain areas makes it also very difficult for children to get health services, to get immunization. Many schools are closed so children cannot go to school and there are more risks for exploitation and sexual abuse in the region,” he said.
UNICEF estimates nearly 400,000 children in northern Ethiopia are malnourished. It says 80,000 severely malnourished children have been treated for this life-threatening condition this year, compared to 36,500 during the same period last year, indicating a seriously deteriorating situation.
Rotigliano tells VOA priority needs include food, seed, and fertilizers, as well as cash to pay civil servants, doctors, nurses, and other essential workers who receive no salary. He says another critical issue is fuel, which is in short supply.
“This is a big problem because fuel is not an issue of Ethiopia. It is a global issue. As you know, with the war in Ukraine, the price of fuel has gone up and the actual supply of fuel has decreased. So, this is a big issue that we have, that we are facing now,” he said.
Rotigliano warns the distribution of lifesaving aid to millions of people in Tigray will be severely affected if fuel supplies run out.
U.N. agencies estimate 100 trucks carrying food, medicine, non-food items and fuel must arrive in Tigray every day to meet the region’s humanitarian needs.