First international aid convoy reaches embattled Tigray region

Thousands have fled Tigray for eastern Sudan. Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

The Swiss-run Red Cross has reached the Tigray capital of Mekelle making it the first overseas humanitarian assistance to help the Ethiopian region since the launch of an army operation more than a month ago.

This content was published on December 12, 2020 - 14:23

On Saturday, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) shared that seven trucks carrying medicine and supplies reached the Tigray capital. The convoy, which was joined by the Ethiopian Red Cross, was organised in coordination with the Ethiopian authorities, the ICRC said in a statement.

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The international community had been calling for humanitarian access to the region for several weeks, which had been virtually cut off from the world since the launch of a military operation on November 4 aimed at removing dissident regional authorities.

On December 2, the United Nations had welcomed the Ethiopian government's granting of unrestricted humanitarian access to Tigray, but has not yet been able to deliver, as Addis Ababa has insisted that it will lead the delivery of humanitarian assistance to Tigray.

The seven Red Cross trucks that make up the convoy are carrying medicines and medical equipment to treat more than 400 injured people as well as items for the treatment of common and chronic illnesses.

Dire situation

The supplies will be donated to the Ayder Hospital, Mekelle's main hospital, the regional health office and the Ethiopian Red Cross pharmacy in the town. The hospital, which in late November faced an influx of people wounded in the fighting, had to close its intensive care unit and operating theatre due to a lack of medical supplies and fuel for the generator. It is also struggling to meet the needs of chronically ill patients and to provide routine services, according to the ICRC.

"Doctors and nurses have been forced to make impossible choices of which services to continue, and which services to cut, after going weeks without new supplies, running water, and electricity," said Patrick Youssef, ICRC regional director for Africa, following a visit to Addis Ababa. "This medical shipment will inject new stocks, help patients, and reduce those impossible life-or-death triage decisions."

The Ethiopian Ministry of Health also distributed medicines and medical equipment to health-care facilities in the capital on Saturday, according to the ICRC. The Red Cross convoy also brought blankets, tarpaulins, sets of cooking utensils, clothes, soap and jerry cans to help some 100 families who had to flee because of the fighting, as well as equipment to improve access to water and sanitation.

"We expect that many health care facilities in Tigray are facing the same challenges as Ayder Hospital and urgently need support," added Youssef.

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