By Faith Nyasuguta
The government of Ethiopia has turned down allegations by the US aid boss Samantha Power indicating that it was barring humanitarian aid from entering the war-filled Tigray.
In a statement, Power indicated that the current flow of humanitarian aid into Tigray, where thousands of people are facing famine remains “woefully insufficient” and cautioned that food was running out.
“This shortage is not because food is unavailable, but because the Ethiopian government is obstructing humanitarian aid and personnel, including land convoys and air access,” she said.
Since November last year, conflict has gripped the Tigray region after Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent in troops to tumble the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the area’s then ruling party.
In the wake of the conflict, the Tigrayan rebels and the Ethiopian government have shifted the blame on each other over the hampered aid delivery to the nation’s northernmost region.
“The US calls on the Ethiopian government to immediately allow humanitarian assistance to swiftly move into Tigray in order to prevent a catastrophic stop to food assistance that millions need to survive,” Power said just days after visiting Ethiopia.
“This week, for the first time in nine months of conflict, aid workers will run out of food to distribute to the millions of people who are going hungry.”
She confirmed that the designated humanitarian workers had faced “unacceptable” delays at spot checks and harassment amid numerous spot checks.
However, the Ethiopian government denied claims of “purposely” blocking humanitarian assistance to Tigray, with the prime minister’s mouthpiece Billene Seyoum informing journalists: “That is not the case.”
Seyoum said Ethiopia was allowing aid convoys into Tigray but asserted that security is a “priority that cannot be compromised”.
Last Friday, the PM’s office said via Twitter that some 318 trucks ferrying aid had arrived in Tigray’s capital Mekele.
It added that a coordination center had been erected to allow trucks to move in and out of the neighboring Afar region.
At the same time, the World Food Programme(WFP) has cautioned that it is facing a mega funding shortfall despite seeking to feed millions of Ethiopians as the nation enters a “hunger season”, a situation worsened by the war extending to regions neighboring Tigray.
“Due to the extended combined effects of drought, flooding, desert locust invasions, market disruptions, and high food prices, and the Covid-19 pandemic, over 13.6 million people are estimated to be food insecure,” it said.
The WFP now says it needs over $288 million for use in the next six months.