Humanitarians have still not gained unhindered access to Ethiopia’s Tigray region despite a peace agreement reached between warring parties a month ago, the World Health Organization said on Friday.
“This peace process has not yet translated into full access, unhindered access and massive medical and health assistance that the people of Tigray need,” the WHO emergency manager said. , Michael Ryan, during a regular press briefing in Geneva.
“There is of course food aid and medicines that are distributed. But we want unhindered access because the needs are enormous,” added the head of the WHO, Ethiopian Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, himself from of Tigray.
“The only solution to this conflict is through political dialogue (…) and a peaceful settlement,” said Mr. Tedros, asking that civilians be “at the center”.
“Even in times of conflict, even in the midst of war, food aid and medical supplies must be delivered. This should not be tied to political or military dialogue… It should be unconditional and unhindered medical and food aid for those in need,” he insisted.
The delivery of humanitarian aid to Tigray was halted in late August when fighting resumed after a five-month truce between the Ethiopian federal army and its allies on the one side and the forces of the rebel authorities in Tigray on the other. .
Even before this interruption, aid was already insufficient to meet the needs of a region where some 90% of the six million inhabitants depend on food aid, due to the conflict which broke out in November 2020.
– “Skeptic” –
A week ago, the World Food Program (WFP), another UN agency, had already pointed out that although humanitarian operations are increasing in northern Ethiopia, part of Tigray remains inaccessible, and the aid delivered is less than needed.
“The aid sent to Tigray does not meet the needs and the WFP and its partners urgently need access to the whole region”, whose access to certain areas of the east and the center is restricted, the organization said.
Tigray remained virtually cut off from the world for more than a year and is deprived of electricity, telecommunications, banking services and fuel.
While the WHO has seen some improvement in terms of staff access to the region and obtaining fuel, Dr Ryan said on Friday, the organization is also calling for a full replenishment of primary and secondary health care facilities with essential medical equipment, payment of health personnel.
He also stressed the importance of restoring banking and communications services, crucial factors in the success of humanitarian operations, as well as logistics services.
“Currently we are trying to send cash directly,” he said.
“I and my team still don’t see evidence of unfettered access to people in Tigray. And that needs to change quickly,” he insisted, acknowledging he remained “skeptical” about it.