Fighting hampering aid delivery to Ethiopia’s Tigray: UN

The United Nations has said that ongoing fighting “in many parts” of Ethiopia’s Tigray is complicating efforts to deliver humanitarian aid despite a deal granting the UN access to territory under federal control.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced military operations in the northern region a month ago against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

The United Nations has said that ongoing fighting “in many parts” of Ethiopia’s Tigray is complicating efforts to deliver humanitarian aid despite a deal granting the UN access to territory under federal control.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced military operations in the northern region a month ago against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).The UN has been warning of a possible humanitarian catastrophe within Tigray, though a communications blackout has made it difficult to assess conditions on the ground.

More than 45,000 have fled the conflict from Tigray into Sudan, though Sudanese forces on Thursday said Ethiopian forces blocked people from crossing the border at its busiest point.

Al Jazeera’s Malcolm Webb, reporting from Kenya’s capital Nairobi, said thousands of civilians were reported killed in the fighting.

“There have also been reports of massacres of civilians by militia on both sides. The leaders of both sides deny it,” he said.

“It is very difficult for anyone to verify any of these claims because there is almost no access to humanitarian workers, human rights workers and journalists.”

On Wednesday, the UN announced it had reached an agreement to administer aid in areas of Tigray that were government-controlled.

But as of Friday, security assessments were still being conducted and three UN officials told AFP that aid was not expected to arrive before next week.

Refugee safety

Of particular concern is the fate of about 96,000 Eritrean refugees who before the conflict were living in camps in northern Tigray in areas reported to have seen heavy fighting.

The UN earlier this week issued a public appeal for the government to allow aid into the camps, which are believed to have run out of food.

A government official told AFP there was likely a “buffer” of food supplies that would last through the week.

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) is eager to get food, medicine and other supplies to refugees and host communities as soon as possible, Ethiopia representative Ann Encontre told AFP on Friday.

It also wants to assess “very grim” reports on the security of the camps, which it has been unable to verify because of the communications blackout, Encontre said.

“We’ve heard of deaths of refugees, we’ve heard of some being forced into conscription. We’ve heard of abductions,” she said.

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