By Seleshi Tessema
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AA) - Ethiopia announced Monday that it has decided to airlift medical and food supplies to its northern Tigray region as deliveries via the town of Abala are blocked due to renewed fighting between Tigray rebels and security forces.
Abala is a small town in the country’s Afar region serving as a land route to Tigray through which humanitarian supplies to the region had passed since the year-long conflict.
On Monday, the Afar regional government accused Tigray rebels of launching attacks against the region on multiple fronts, adding fighting was still raging.
Getachew Reda, the spokesman for the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), admitted that fighting was going on in Abala but denied that the TPLF had launched it.
“The most farcical part of the story is that the so-called #Abaala conflict was launched by the #Afarforces & their #Eritrean partners,” Reda tweeted.
According to a statement by the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, over the last six months, the Ethiopian government and its partners had joined hands and delivered humanitarian assistance worth 1.48 billion birr ($29.8 million).
“Since July 2021, through access facilitated by the Government of Ethiopia, 658 metric tons of medicines and medical supplies were delivered by 18 trucks through seven organizations: UNFPA, WHO, MSF, IOM, UNICEF, FH and CST,” it added.
The statement added that land delivery of the supplies organized in cooperation with global aid agencies hit a snag since last month.
“However, those approved to deliver medicines and supplies since last month could not pass Abala due to the TPLF’s renewed aggression,’’ it said, adding that due to the problem, additional flights were prepared to deliver medical aid other essential supplies.
However, Reda in a Twitter message said that “a 27-truck #WFPConvoy apparently left #Semera on its way to #Tigray. The convoy was expected to break the logjam on humanitarian access to #Tigray or so we were told. It turned out, while the Government in #Addis had ostensibly given the green light, the regional gov’t of #Afar thought the better of it” and turned down the passage of the trucks on the pretext of the Abala conflict.
On Friday, the UN said humanitarian aid to the Tigray region is at its lowest since last March due to the ongoing conflict.
“We are told that still no humanitarian supplies have entered Tigray though the Semera-Abala-Mekelle corridor since Dec. 14 of last year due to continued clashes in Abala, in the Afar province,” Stephane Dujarric, the spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said in a noon briefing.
The war in Ethiopia between Tigrayan and government forces has been dragging on for more than a year.
Since November 2020, the bloody war between the two sides has left the economy battered, devastated infrastructure, and left thousands dead and many displaced.
A joint report by the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights accuses Tigray Special Forces, the Eritrean Defense Forces and the Ethiopian National Defense Force of destroying infrastructure.