STORY: Tigray Update – WFP
TRT: 01 min 57s
SOURCE: UNTV CH
LANGUAGE: ENGLISH / NATS
ASPECT RATIO: 16:9
DATELINE: 23 July 2021 GENEVA, SWITZERLAND
UN World Food Programme hails aid flights to Mekelle in Ethiopia’s stricken Tigray region
Aid flights have resumed to Ethiopia’s wartorn Tigray region after a month-long break linked to the eight-month conflict there, the World Food Programme (WFP) said on Friday.
WFP spokesperson Tomson Phiri confirmed that the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS), which is operated by the UN agency, had completed its “first scheduled passenger flight to Mekelle on Thursday”.
The airplane transported 30 aid workers “from multiple humanitarian organisations working to deliver urgently needed assistance to conflict-affected communities across Tigray”, the agency said in statement.
Despite the positive development, which will see twice-weekly flights into Mekelle, the WFP official said that there is still extreme concern for some four million people in Tigray.
Seven in 10 people in the northwest region have high levels of acute food insecurity and need emergency assistance after more than eight months of fighting between Ethiopian Government troops and those loyal to the dominant regional force, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.
But the humanitarian response has been severely hampered “by a severe lack of sufficient food and other humanitarian supplies, limited communication services and no commercial supply chain”, Mr. Phiri said.
Last Sunday, a 10-truck WFP aid convoy was attacked in neighbouring Afar region, while attempting to transport essential food aid to Tigray, where 400,000 people face famine.
“In June, WFP reached over 185,000 people with nutrition support but progress in early July was much slower due to security concerns with 30,000 people reached in July so far,” Mr Phiri said.
“WFP is now delivering nutrition support in areas previously inaccessible throughout the conflict, including those with high malnutrition rates. Now, all this is a fraction of the number of people we should be reaching at this stage.”
In the past month, the UN agency delivered food assistance to more than 730,000 people in parts of southern Tigray and northwest Tigray.
This includes some 40,000 people in Zana who were reached with food assistance for the first time.
WFP also hopes to reach an additional 80,000 people elsewhere in the northwest in the coming days. Once this is completed, food stocks in the northwest are likely to run out, Mr. Phiri said.
“Our teams are telling us that the people we are reaching, particularly in areas that were previously inaccessible such as Zana - are the furthest behind,” the WFP official warned. “They have been completely cut off and living in dire conditions. These are people who have been displaced and now shelter in schools and other impromptu shelters; a lot of them missed both the harvest and planting season due to fighting. Others had livestock and grain stocks completely looted. They are literally living from hand to mouth and are completely reliant on WFP assistance to survive.”
A WFP-led convoy of more than 200 trucks carrying food and other essential humanitarian supplies is on standby in Semera, Afar, “and expected to depart for Tigray as soon as security clearances are assured”, said Mr. Phiri, who reiterated WFP’s call for faster, free and unimpeded access into Tigray.