The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and the government of Ethiopia have agreed to a deal to expand access for aid workers in the war-hit Tigray region.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) had complained that it was impossible for humanitarians to get vital supplies into Ethiopia’s Tigray region.

‘With the road closed, food, health, and other emergency supplies have currently no way to make it into Tigray making prepositioning or re-stocking impossible’, OCHA had said in a statement.

The conflict involving federal and local forces in Tigray has left hundreds dead, thousands displaced, and millions in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.

The conflict started on 04 November after the country’s Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, ordered the Ethiopian Defence Forces (EDF) to attack the Tigray Regional Paramilitary Police and militia loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

‘The food and nutrition security situation is especially challenging. Latest estimates indicate that 2.5 to three million people require emergency food assistance in Tigray region’, WFP said in a statement.

‘Reports indicate that the nutrition situation requires greater attention, with young children and pregnant and lactating mothers the most vulnerable. We must do more, together, to help them’.

The WFP Executive Director, David Beasley, said in a tweet that the agency and the country’s government had agreed on ‘concrete steps’ to expand access for humanitarians across Tigray.

Beasley said that 20,000 tons of food would be transported to 1.3 million people.

‘In keeping with international standards and Ethiopia’s own significant experience with humanitarian assistance, joint government-partner humanitarian needs assessments will be implemented to ascertain needs and develop responses in accessible areas’, the WFP statement added.

‘Armed escorts for humanitarian cargo and personnel will be undertaken as a last resort. Such escorts will be time-bound, of specified duration, and determined on a case-by-case basis, adhering to humanitarian principles and national legal requirements’.

WFP commended the emergency food assistance that the government and partners have already provided to the people of Tigray since the onset of the crisis.

It is understood that almost 1.7 million people have been reached with emergency food distribution, with 26,000 Eritrean refugees residing in two camps also receiving food and nutrition assistance.

Sources: WFP David Beasley

Photo source: UNHCR/Will Swanson

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