The World Food Programme (WFP) has finished its first round of food distributions to people affected by the spread of conflict from Tigray into Ethiopia’s Afar and Amhara regions.
The UN agency said on Tuesday that it has delivered food to nearly 300,000 people in the two regions – Amhara and Afar – since August, but the situation remains “dire.”
However, due to various impediments to the movement of humanitarian aid, supply distribution into Tigray is lagging, the UN agency warned.
WFP spokesperson, Tomson Phiri, said no fewer than seven million people across Tigray, Amhara and Afar are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.
He said, “It is absolutely vital that we have the full cooperation and support of all parties to the conflict so that we can reach all affected populations.
“So that we can reach all affected populations with urgently needed food assistance before we have a humanitarian catastrophe on our hands across all of northern Ethiopia,” said Tomson Phiri, WFP spokesperson.
“Up to seven million people across the three regions (Tigray, Amhara and Afar) are now in dire need of food assistance; 5.2 million people in Tigray and the rest are in Afar and Amhara.”
According to government estimates, the current conflict has displaced over 840,000 people in the Afar and Amhara regions (700,000 in Amhara and 140,000 in Afar).
Since August 15, the World Food Programme has delivered food to nearly 300,000 people in Amhara and Afar, while nearly 2.5 million people have received food assistance in the northwest and parts of southern Tigray, according to Phiri.
In the next round of distributions, the WFP aimed to reach nearly 3.5 million people across all three regions: 2.7 million in Tigray, 210,000 in Amhara, and up to 540,000 in Afar.
According to Phiri, the Integrated Phase Classification (IPC), which analyzes the severity of food insecurity, estimated in June that up to 400,000 people in Tigray would be facing famine-like conditions by now.
“Anecdotal reports from all three regions suggest that food insecurity is on the rise,” he said.
According to him, the food pipeline in Tigray is still “hand to mouth,” with “a slew of issues affecting the free movement of convoys.”
However, there is some good news, according to a WFP spokesperson: “in recent weeks, security issues have been largely overcome.” Between September 5 and September 29, five convoys containing 171 trucks entered Tigray.”
These ships transported a total of 6,150 metric tons of food and nutrition supplies.
This is enough to feed 360,000 people for a month. Despite these recent convoys, only 11% of the required humanitarian aid has arrived in the region.
Phiri told the meeting that one of the major impediments to cargo delivery was the inability of the vast majority of commercial trucks to return from Tigray.
However, he stated that WFP is continuing to work with commercial transporters to resolve any issues that are preventing trucks from leaving. “We’ve had more than 90 commercial trucks leave Tigray and are now available for the movement of humanitarian aid into the region,” he says.
However, he reiterated that the humanitarian sector’s combined needs necessitate “100 trucks arriving daily to provide food baskets of cereals, pulses, and vegetable oil to 210,000 people every day.”
Phiri also stressed that, while WFP was successful in allowing 90 trucks to leave Tigray, “fuel stocks are critically low.”
He emphasized that WFP requires “200,000 litres of fuel entering Tigray each week to keep operations running” and that fuel is “vital to keeping operations running and facilitating the movement of humanitarian aid into and across the region.”
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