Addis Ababa | Trucks carrying crucial food aid for Ethiopia’s war-affected region of Tigray were blocked at a checkpoint in the neighboring Afar region on Tuesday, humanitarian sources said.
The government and the rebels of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), who have been fighting each other for more than 14 months in the north of the country, blame each other for the situation.
Last week, the UN said food distributions were at an all-time low in Tigray, where conflict has pushed hundreds of thousands of people into “near starvation conditions”.
On Sunday, 27 trucks carrying 800 tonnes of food set off from Afar for Tigray’s capital, Mekele, using the only functional land route, according to the UN’s World Food Program (WFP).
But the convoy has been blocked since Monday at a checkpoint in the town of Serdo, two humanitarian officials told AFP on Tuesday, without knowing if it will be able to continue on its way.
On Monday evening, government spokesman Legesse Tulu said the rebels had “attacked” several sites, including the town of Abala on the border between the two regions, “cutting off the main artery for humanitarian aid “.
Tens of thousands of people have been displaced in three days and there are “no government defense forces in this area”, he added.
The TPLF has accused pro-government forces of causing clashes in the region.
The claims of both parties could not be independently verified.
Fighting erupted in Tigray in November 2020 after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops to overthrow the TPLF, the region’s former ruling party which he accused of staging attacks on army bases.
After initially losing control of towns and villages in Tigray, the TPLF retook most of the region in June, then launched offensives in neighboring Afar and Amhara regions.
A region of six million inhabitants, Tigray has been subjected for six months to what the UN describes as a “de facto blockade”.
Washington accuses the government of blocking aid, while Addis Ababa blames the situation on rebel incursions.
Humanitarian access was a major focus of last week’s visit to Addis Ababa by the State Department’s top diplomat for Africa and the US special envoy for the Horn of Africa, diplomats said. .
On Sunday, Ethiopia announced it would allow more flights “to bolster ground transportation” of food and medicine to Tigray.
AFP documented deaths in the Tigris famine in September, and in November the pre-war regional government said nearly 200 children had died of starvation in hospitals in the region.