First Humanitarian Flight Arrives in Tigray, Ethiopia

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Following conflict escalation and ongoing fighting between government and regional forces in Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region, 350, 000 people are reportedly at risk of famine

Against this background, the head of the World Food Programme (WFP) appealed for immediate access to deliver lifesaving assistance earlier this week after first aid trucks took days to reach the local capital, Mekelle due to multiple checks delaying their arrival.

As a response to this, the first UN Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) lifesaving aircraft yesterday arrived in the beleaguered region since commercial flights were halted on 24 June.

Touching down in the capital Mekelle, the first UN World Food Programme (WFP) plane was carrying humanitarian workers with more than 30 staffers from multiple aid organizations.

WFP’s Regional Director for Eastern Africa, Michael Dunford said they were delighted to see the lifesaving passenger flight arriving in the region.

WFP and our fellow emergency responders on the ground in Mekelle are all enormously relieved to see this UNHAS flight arrive today, bringing in colleagues who are all essential in our collective efforts to scale up the humanitarian response and for WFP to reach 2.1 million people with life-saving food assistance“, said Dunford.

According to UN News, aid under threat is expected to continue and moving forward, UNHAS flights will operate twice weekly, facilitating humanitarian personnel to move into and out of Tigray.

On Wednesday, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) acknowledged access improvements within the region, but said the last entry point open to Tigray, the road between Afar and Tigray region via Semera city, remains blocked due to security reasons, preventing movement of humanitarian personnel, food stock, fuel and other humanitarian goods from entering the region.

Famine is preventable and the power to avert it is in the hands of all parties concerned”, the agency said, calling for “all parties to agree to a ceasefire so the humanitarian response can be rapidly scaled up and all routes can be used urgently to reach those most in need,” said OCHA.

Despite numerous challenges, over the past month WFP has managed to deliver food to over 730,000 people in parts of the south and northwest, including 40,000 people in the town of Zana who were reached with food assistance for the first time.

It has been revealed that in the coming days, using UNHAS airlines, WFP hopes to reach an additional 80,000 people in the northwest, warning that once distributed, food stocks are likely to run out thereafter.

The agency said that it needs some $176 million to continue to scale up its response to save lives and livelihoods in Tigray, through to the end of the year.

The ongoing conflicts between the Ethiopian Government and regional forces of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF)started in early November last year when the Prime Minister ordered a military offensive after rebels attacked a federal army base.

Within days, militias from the neighbouring Amhara region joined the fray, reportedly followed by some troops from neighbouring Eritrea a long-time rival of Tigray.

Government forces reported that the region had been secured at the end of November, but last month the TPLF reportedly recaptured Mekelle, as the Ethiopian Government declared a unilateral ceasefire.


Photo: Courtesy – WFP



By Joyce Mukucha

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