GENEVA - United Nations agencies say they cannot help tens of thousands of civilians suffering because of the Tigray conflict until Ethiopia opens a humanitarian corridor to allow aid into the region.
The United Nations and Ethiopia reached an agreement Wednesday to grant aid agencies unimpeded access to the beleaguered area. It has yet to be implemented, though, and the hoped-for humanitarian corridor to Tigray opened.
The World Health Organization says its staff is on standby and ready to be deployed as soon as the situation permits. WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic says health services have been disrupted by the conflict.
“That will impact programs of immunization, of disease control, surveillance and other issues," said Jasarevic. "So, it is really important as soon as the access is there, to bring in those necessary drugs, not only for communicable, but also for noncommunicable diseases and restore health services.”
People wait in line for food aid from the WFP, at the Um Rakuba refugee camp which houses Ethiopians fleeing the fighting in the Tigray region, on the the border in Sudan, Dec. 3, 2020.The WHO warns the coronavirus pandemic and increased communicable diseases such as malaria will have a serious impact on the health of Tigray’s population. The agency says it has sent emergency health supplies to treat 10,000 patients for three months.
Jasarevic says the WHO also has prepositioned additional supplies for trauma, cholera, malaria and severe acute malnutrition in bordering states. He says these materials are ready to be dispatched to Tigray as soon as the humanitarian corridor is opened.
Prior to the fighting, the World Food program had been providing food aid to 1 million people in Tigray. WFP spokesman Tomson Phiri says the U.N. estimates at least double that number now will need aid.
“We note that violence may have disrupted WFP’s existing operations in Tigray," said Phiri. "We also note that it may have created new numbers of people in need of support. WFP is ready to respond to the increased caseloads of people in need in Tigray as soon as needs are assessed.”
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says operational, logistical and security issues in the U.N.-Ethiopian agreement still must be worked out. Once they are resolved, and aid can flow freely to Tigray, it says humanitarian operations will be able to move ahead at full speed.