The first international aid convoy carrying medicines and relief supplies has arrived in Mekelle, the capital of Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has said.
In a statement on Saturday, ICRC said the convoy from the Geneva-based group and the Ethiopian Red Cross Society (ERCS) was sent in coordination with the Ethiopian authorities.
Seven Red Cross trucks brought medicines and medical equipment for 400 wounded as well as relief supplies. These supplies will be donated to Ayder Hospital, the Regional Health Bureau, and the ERCS pharmacy in Mekelle.
“It is the first international aid to arrive in Mekelle since fighting erupted in Tigray more than one month ago,” the statement said.
Aid trucks managed to enter the region amid international calls for more transparency into the month-long fighting between Ethiopian forces and those of the fugitive Tigray regional government that is thought to have killed thousands, including civilians.
At least one large-scale massacre has been documented by human rights groups, and others are feared.
“Doctors and nurses have been forced to make impossible choices of which services to continue and which services to cut, after going weeks without new supplies, running water and electricity,” said Patrick Youssef, ICRC’s regional director for Africa, following a visit to Addis Ababa.
“This medical shipment will inject new stocks, help patients and reduce those impossible life-or-death triage decisions.”
Youssef said the federal health ministry also delivered medical supplies to Mekelle’s health facilities.
“The supplies will make an immediate and lifesaving difference to the people who today are going without access to medical care,” said Youssef. “We expect that many healthcare facilities in Tigray are facing the same challenges as Ayder Hospital and urgently need support.”
Calls for transparency
The Tigray region remains largely cut off from the world with food and medicine desperately needed by the population of six million – some one million now thought to be displaced.
The lack of transparency, with most communications and transport links severed, complicates efforts to verify the warring sides’ claims.
It also hides the extent of atrocities feared to have been committed since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on November 4 announced fighting had begun with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which dominated Ethiopia’s government for nearly 30 years before he came to power and sidelined it.
Each government now regards the other as illegal, as the TPLF objects to the postponement of national elections until next year because of the COVID-19 pandemic and sees Abiy’s mandate as expired.