March 24 (UPI) — The government of Ethiopia on Thursday declared an “indefinite humanitarian truce, effective immediately,” to expedite the delivery of humanitarian aid to those in the war-scarred northern Tigray region where millions face starvation.
The truce was announced in a statement carried by the government’s communication service, stating Ethiopia “hopes that this truce will substantially improve the humanitarian situation on the ground and pave the way for the resolution of the conflict in the northern Ethiopia without further bloodshed.”
According to the World Health Organization, more than 5.2 million people in Tigray are in “dire need” of humanitarian support due to the war that broke out in the region between the militaries of Ethiopia and neighboring Eritrea against the ethnic nationalist Tigray People’s Liberation Front in November of 2020.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus a little more than a week ago said 6 million people in Tigray were under a blockade enforced by the two nations that has been in place for almost 500 days.
Tigray has been “sealed off from the outside world,” said Tedros, who is from the embattled region.
He said there has been no fuel or cash and food aid hasn’t been delivered to a population where 83% is food insecure since the middle of December.
“There is nowhere on earth where the health of millions of people is more under threat than in Tigray,” he said.
Ethiopia said it has taken measures to hasten delivery of humanitarian aid to the region, including increasing the number of U.N. flights and “improved clearance procedures” to expedite the delivery of fuel and cash from aid organizations.
Flights for International Committee of the Red Cross, WHO and European Union have also been facilitated to deliver aid, it said.
“The government calls upon the donor community to redouble their generous contributions to alleviate the situation and reiterates its commitment to work in collaboration with relevant organizations to expedite the provision of humanitarian assistance to those in need,” it said.
“The commitment being undertaken by the government of Ethiopia could have the desired outcome of improving the humanitarian situation on the ground only to the extent that it is reciprocated by the other side,” it added.
“To optimize the success of the humanitarian truce, the government calls upon the insurgents in Tigray to desist from all acts of further aggression and withdraw from areas they have occupied in neighboring regions.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States “welcomes and strongly supports” the truce as well as Ethiopia’s commitment to work with humanitarian organizations to ensure supplies get to whom need them.
“We expect this declaration to be quickly followed by the movement of life-saving assistance,” he said in a statement, adding that it could serve as an essential foundation for an inclusive political process toward ending the way.
“The United States urges all parties to build on this announcement to advance a negotiated and sustainable ceasefire, including necessary security arrangements,” he said. “The United States will continue to do everything possible to assist and to help the people of Ethiopia to advance a peaceful future.”
The British and Canadian embassies in Ethiopia also separately said that they welcome news of the truce and will work with the government to ensure humanitarian assistance reaches those in need.