Tigray: Not Yet Uhuru 

Uhuru is a Swahili word for freedom, but for the people of the war-ravaged Tigray region of Ethiopia, it is not yet Uhuru from the effects of the war. 

Didn’t both sides of the conflict reach a truce last week? 

Yes, they did. But a little more than a week after the agreement to cease fighting, access to desperately-needed aid is still out of the reach of Tigray residents. The World Health Organization (WHO) has called for a massive influx of food and medicines into Tigray, where the residents have endured severe humanitarian crises in the two years of the conflict with the Ethiopian government. While commending the ceasefire agreement, the WHO Director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said “nothing is moving in terms of food aid or medicines”. 

What were the terms of the agreement? 

Stakeholders and observers had expressed relief when nine days of talks resulted in a peace agreement between the Ethiopian government and the rebel Tigray Defense Forces last week in Pretoria, South Africa. In the agreement, both conflicting sides had indicated that they will cease hostilities immediately, disarm the rebels, allow the resumption of aid deliveries, and restore basic services. But a week after the agreement, WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan said “we still remain on standby to take advantage of any opportunity to provide life-saving assistance to the people there right now”. 

Calling for the restoration of basic services such as banking and telecoms, Tedros urged that journalists be allowed into the region which he says has been in the dark in the last two years, with six million people “completely separated, shut off from the rest of the world as if they don’t exist”. “Many people are dying from treatable diseases. Many people are dying from starvation”, the WHO DG said at a news conference on Wednesday, adding, “Especially after the ceasefire agreement, I was expecting that food and medicine would just flow immediately. That’s not happening”. 

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