(CNN) – Trucks carrying food aid have entered Tigray in northern Ethiopia for the first time since mid-December, according to a tweet from the United Nations’ World Food Program (WFP) on Friday.
A convoy carrying more than 500 metric tons of food and nutrition supplies is expected to reach the regional capital Mekelle soon for “communities on edge of starvation,” the tweet read.
“20 WFP trucks have made it to our line of control& on their way to Mekelle,” Getachew Reda, spokesperson for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), said in a tweet Friday.
“This is one good step in the right direction; the bottom line, though, isn’t about how many trucks are allowed but whether there is a system in place to ensure unfettered humanitarian access for the needy!” Reda continued.
In November 2020, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered a military offensive in the northern Tigray region, promising that the conflict would be resolved quickly. Within a year, the fighting had left thousands dead, displaced more than 2 million people from their homes, fueled famine and gave rise to a wave of atrocities.
The TPLF said last month that it would respect a ceasefire proposed by Abiy’s government to allow for aid to enter the region.
In its recent “Emergency Food Security Assessment” of Tigray, the WFP said 83% (4.6 million people) of the population surveyed in the Tigray region were classified as food insecure — and 2 million of these (37% of the population) were severely food insecure.
The UN’s humanitarian partners last month warned that fewer than 10% of the required quantity of seeds made it into Tigray before the imminent start of the planting season.
In September 2021, the UN said a “de facto humanitarian aid blockade” was limiting its ability to reach more than 5 million people in Tigray in need of humanitarian aid, including 400,000 people facing famine conditions.
Later that month, UN aid chief Martin Griffiths declared that swathes of the war-torn region were in the throes of a “man-made” famine and urged the Ethiopian government to facilitate access.
The Ethiopian government has repeatedly rejected allegations that it is blocking aid. Just days after Griffiths’ comments, it ordered seven senior UN officials to be expelled from the country, including from organizations coordinating relief efforts.