By Fredrick Nzwili Catholic News Service
NAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) -- After the Catholic Church's persistent call for humanitarian assistance in Tigray, the arrival of hundreds of aid trucks in the northern Ethiopia region is a sign of hope for millions of people driven to the brink of famine by war, said a church source.
Since the start of the war in November 2020, the church in the Eparchy of Adigrat had been calling for allowing humanitarian access amid reports of a blockade. The government had blamed the Tigray fighters for the aid obstruction, while the fighters said the government was responsible.
"We welcome this movement of aid. Life has been terrible for the people," said a priest from the region who did wish to be named for security reasons. "We also hope this is honest aid. We hope this is not a trick being played on the people of Tigray."
At the same time, according to the priest, the need is so huge that it will take a long time before the situation on the ground normalizes.
"I think this is a small drop -- only 6%. Perhaps, we can have 100 aid trucks each day," said the priest, while warning that the going tensions and clashes in some areas continued to cause further suffering for the people.
The Ethiopian bishops' conference said in March that it had started delivering humanitarian aid.
The United Nations said 319 trucks entered in mid-May -- the highest number in a single week since June 2021. More than 570 trucks of humanitarian aid have reached the Tigray capital, Mekele, since April 1, when the resumption of the humanitarian convoy was announced. By May 16, more than 17,000 tons of food had reached Tigray, the U.N. said, and at least 75,000 tons were still needed to complete the distribution cycle.
"The rate at which aid is arriving into Tigray, however, remains a small fraction of what is needed. Essential services, including electricity, communications networks and banking services, remain largely cut off," U.N. spokesman Stéphane Dujarric told journalists May 5.
Ethiopian President Abiy Ahmed Ali launched a military offensive against the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front Nov. 4, 2020. He accused the TPLF forces of attacking a national army base in Mekele.
What was supposed to be a brief mission turned into a nightmare, dragging on for more than a year. It triggered a huge humanitarian crisis, massive displacement and starvation. It also spread into neighboring regions.
Recently, some international human rights groups, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, concluded that ethnic cleansing, bordering on crimes against humanity and war crimes, occurred in parts of Tigray.