A first international aid convoy arrived Saturday in the capital of Ethiopia’s Tigray region since fighting broke out more than a month ago, the International Committee of the Red Cross said.
Seven Red Cross trucks brought medicines and medical equipment for 400 wounded as well as relief supplies “to fortify paralyzed health care facilities” the Geneva-based ICRC said.
“It is the first international aid to arrive in Mekele since fighting erupted in Tigray more than one month ago,” it said in a statement.
The international community had for weeks been calling for aid access to Tigray to which access has been restricted since a government operation started on November 4 to remove the dissident regional authorities.
Aid groups fear a humanitarian disaster is unfolding in Tigray with Eritrean refugees caught in the conflict.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the winner of last year’s Nobel Peace Prize, on Friday said his government was in charge of handling the humanitarian response in Tigray.
The Red Cross aid, organized with the Ethiopian Red Cross Society and the Ethiopian authorities, would go to the main medical referral facility, Ayder Hospital, in Mekele, which had a population of 50,0O0 before the fighting started.
The intensive care unit and surgical theater have had to close due to the lack of medical supplies and electricity.
In late November, the hospital faced an influx of people wounded in the fighting and has struggled to provide care for chronic and routine illnesses, the ICRC said.
“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.
“This medical shipment will inject new stocks, help patients, and reduce those impossible life-or-death triage decisions.”
The Federal Ministry of Health also delivered medical supplies to Mekele on Saturday, the ICRC said.
The convoy also brought blankets, tarpaulins, kitchen sets, clothes, soap, and jerrycans for 1,000 families forced from their homes by the fighting as well as equipment to improve access to water and sanitation.
ICRC teams were also in North Amhara and West Tigray distributing relief to displaced families.