Ethiopia and the United Nations agreed on Wednesday to channel desperately-needed humanitarian aid to the northern region of Tigray, where a month of war is believed to have killed thousands of combatants and civilians.
Federal troops have been battling the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and have captured the regional capital Mekelle, and the pact announced by U.N. officials will allow relief into government-controlled areas of Tigray.
The Ethiopian conflict has forced more than 45,000 refugees to flee into Sudan, displaced many more within Tigray and worsened suffering in a region where 600,000 people already depended on food aid even before hostilities broke out on Nov.4.
As hundreds of foreign workers fled, aid agencies had appealed for urgent safe access.
Highlighting the dangers they face, four Ethiopian employees of two foreign aid agencies were killed in a camp for Eritrean refugees in Tigray last month, a humanitarian and a diplomatic source said on Wednesday.
It was unclear who killed them, and there was no immediate comment from Ethiopia’s government nor the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). The agencies asked not to be named as they had not yet informed their relatives.
Food is running out for 96,000 Eritrean refugees in Tigray who have fled repression in their own country..
And medics in Mekelle were short of painkillers, gloves and bodybags, the International Committee of the Red Cross said.
U.N. humanitarian coordination agency OCHA said the deal would “ensure that humanitarians will have unimpeded, sustained and secure access…to areas under the control of the Federal Government in the Tigray Region.”
Ethiopian government spokesman Redwan Hussein confirmed the agreement but gave no further details.