Church leaders and relief agencies have welcomed an agreement between Ethiopia and the UN that will allow humanitarian agencies “unimpeded, secure and sustained” access to the northern region of Tigray.
The agreement on 2 December came amid increasing calls for a humanitarian corridor, as thousands of people had been cut off by the fighting between the federal government forces and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.
“Though it is not enough, [we are] pleased that at least Ethiopia government has opened space for humanitarian actors to bring aid and respond to the enormous needs of refugees and internally displaced persons,” said Rev. Charles Berahino, All Africa Conference of Churches executive secretary for Peace and Diakonia.
“The All Africa Conference of Churches calls on Ethiopian authorities to also choose a peaceful resolution of this conflict through talks,” said Berahino, an ordained pastor of the Evangelical Friends Church in Burundi.
Jan Egeland, secretary-general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, said the announcement that humanitarian agencies will finally get access to Tigray was a welcome development.
“This must mean access everywhere, including to internally displaced people and Eritrean refugees living in Tigray’s camps,” said Egeland in a statement. “Aid convoys are on standby; ready to move into Tigray and support families in need.”
Ethiopia’s Inter Religious Council, a grouping that includes the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo, Catholic and Evangelical Lutheran churches and Ethiopia’s Muslim community, was the first to call for negotiation and mediation in the conflict.
The council said it could only send messages of hope and encouragement at the moment since the region was still unstable, but that “[we are] planning to go to the region and support in whatever way needed as soon as the area is stable.”
Since the start of the armed conflict, humanitarian agencies have reported that food, medicines and other supplies were running out in the region of 6 million people.
Even before the recent fighting, more than 600,000 people in Tigray were dependent on food aid. Concerns have also grown for nearly 100,000 Eritrean refugees residing in camps in the region. Agencies fear that hunger and malnutrition will become a major crisis unless urgent action is taken.