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Is aid flowing again into Tigray?

Woman scooping up lentils during an aid operation in Mekelle

The Ethiopian government says aid is flowing into Tigray, where millions of people are in urgent need of assistance.

Earlier this month, the government and rebels in the Tigray region agreed to a ceasefire as a first step to ending the two-year conflict.

But is aid now reaching those in need in this area?

What has the Ethiopian government said?

Redwan Hussein, national security adviser to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, said on 11 November that aid was “flowing like [at] no other time”.

He said this included 35 trucks of food and three carrying medicine to the town of Shire in Tigray province.

He added that deliveries were reaching not just areas held by Ethiopian forces, but also those areas not under their control.

He added that there was “no hindrance whatsoever” regarding the delivery of aid.

Mr Redwan later clarified to Reuters that the 35 trucks sent to Shire he referred to were from the Ethiopian government, and that international aid would start coming in “anytime.”

Shire has recently fallen under the control of government forces.

We asked Mr Redwan to clarify whether any aid had gone to other areas, but have not yet had a response.

A government statement issued the day after Mr Redwan’s post on Twitter, said that “efforts are being made to deliver assistance to most of Tigray which is under ENDF [Ethiopian National Defence Forces] command”.

What has been the Tigrayan response?

The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) says the government’s assertion that aid is coming in is not true.

Getachew Reda of the TPLF told the BBC that as of 13 November, no aid had reached the Tigray region.

This was echoed in a tweet by another TPLF representative, Kindeya Gebrehiwot: “Our people need unhindered humanitarian aid in no time… we wish to see promises delivered!”

At a press conference on 12 November in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, where the two sides had met to agree on how to implement the peace deal, Nigeria’s former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who is acting as a mediator, said aid should have been going in “yesterday”.

Ethiopian and TPLF delegates shake hands at meeting in Pretoria.

The Ethiopian government and Tigray rebels signed a ceasefire deal in early November

“There will be, with immediate effect, unhindered humanitarian access,” he added, when questioned by the BBC.

What have aid agencies said?

The last movement of a humanitarian cargo delivered by the UN into Tigray took place on 22 August along the route from the neighboring Afar region to Tigray’s regional capital, Mekelle.

Map showing areas of Ethiopia affected by hunger

Map showing areas of Ethiopia affected by hunger

There was also an airlift of aid on 23 August from the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, to Mekelle.

More than five million people were facing severe hunger in Tigray at that time, according to the World Food Program.

We contacted the UN, which operates in the Tigray region, to try to find out what has been happening more recently with international aid.

“We, along [with] our humanitarian partners, continue discussions with the relevant parties to resume aid and personnel convoys’ movement to Tigray,” a spokesperson for the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) told us.

“Humanitarian partners are ready to dispatch the items within 48-72 hours after receiving approval to go ahead.”

This suggests that so far, there has been no approval for UN aid convoys or for humanitarian flights to enter Tigray.

And the claim that the Ethiopian authorities had sent aid to the government-held town of Shire has been dismissed by a humanitarian worker in the area.

“No aid is allowed to enter Shire city at all,” the aid worker is reported to have said.

When has aid reached Tigray?

The flow of aid into the Tigray region has been problematic since fighting broke out in November 2020.

There were periods when international aid agencies had access – between July and December 2021 and between April and August 2022.

But there have been months when there’s been only limited or no access for humanitarian aid and staff into the region as the flow is affected by fighting along aid delivery routes, multiple roadblocks and checks and damage to infrastructure.

WFP trucks parked at a checkpoint along the Amhara and Tigray regions border

Humanitarian convoys are facing severe problems accessing the Tigray region

Delays in issuing approvals for aid convoys to travel by road through areas held by federal government and regional government forces has been a key issue.

The government also put in place strict controls for humanitarian aid flights – including a requirement for all flights to land first in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, for inspection.

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