The first international aid convoy carrying medicines and relief supplies has arrived in Mekelle, the capital of Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has said in a statement on Saturday.
Ethiopia government restricted access to the region after fighting began on Nov. 4 between the government and a rebellious regional force, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
Thousands of people are believed to have died in the conflict with another 950,000 displaced.
“A convoy carrying medicines and relief supplies from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Ethiopian Red Cross Society (ERCS), organized in coordination with the Ethiopian authorities, has reached the Tigray State capital, Mekelle,” the Red Cross said in a statement on its website.
“Health care facilities there have become paralyzed after supplies of drugs and basics like surgical gloves ran out. It is the first international aid to arrive in Mekelle since fighting erupted in Tigray more than one month ago.”
The seven Red Cross trucks are carrying medicines and supplies to care for more than 400 trauma patients as well as items needed to treat chronic and routine medical conditions.
“These supplies will be donated to Ayder Hospital, the Regional Health Bureau, and the ERCS pharmacy in Mekelle. In addition, ICRC’s team in Mekelle has been working to get the hospital fuel to run its generator as well as water,” the statement said.
The United Nations and other agencies have not been able to deliver aid although the government says it has sent food and other supplies.
The government says it has defeated forces loyal to the region’s former ruling Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), and struck a deal with the United Nations to allow aid.
But some aid agencies and donors say the agreement is too restrictive and security remains a problem; one U.N. security team was shot at last weekend.
The Red Cross convoy also brought blankets, tarpaulins, kitchen sets, clothes, soap, and jerrycans that can help about 1,000 families forced from their homes by the fighting as well as equipment to improve access to water and sanitation.
The ICRC counts on the financial support of the international community to deliver humanitarian assistance in Ethiopia.
Nearly 50,000 refugees have crossed into eastern Sudan since early November. Nearly 15,000 are at Um Rakuba camp, where long lines of people waited for food with plates in their hands and new arrivals constructed shelters using tree branches.