Ethiopian government still blocking humanitarian assistance to Tigray but TPLF also displacing civilians in Amhara and Afar regions, US says

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Simon Ateba is Chief White House Correspondent for Today News Africa. Simon covers President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, the U.S. government, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions in Washington D.C. and New York City.

The United States said on Wednesday that while the Ethiopian government continues to block humanitarian assistance to Tigray, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) offensives in Amhara and Afar regions are displacing civilians there.

The war in Ethiopia has now lasted nine months, beginning in November of 2020, and has caused immense suffering to hundreds of thousands of people, according to American officials.

The United States has been the most vocal against military offensives there from all sides, and has argued that there is no military solution to the conflict in the northern Ethiopian region. But calls for negotiations and a cessation of hostilities have not been heeded.

On Wednesday, the United States Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power spoke with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Finland Pekka Haavisto, and both discussed “the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia and the need to continue coordination to help alleviate the suffering of the Ethiopian people.”

“Administrator Power discussed her recent visit to Ethiopia and the urgent need to work together to press the Government of Ethiopia to remove bureaucratic obstruction to humanitarian operations so that aid—including desperately needed food assistance—can reach Tigray,” spokesperson Rebecca Chalif said.

Chalif added that Administrator Power and Minister Haavisto also discussed “the humanitarian impact of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) offensives in Amhara and Afar regions, and Administrator Power emphasized that USAID is providing humanitarian support to newly displaced Ethiopians in those regions.”

“They also discussed their shared commitment to provide humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan and ongoing assistance efforts in Haiti following the August 14th earthquake,” Chalif added.

At a separate press briefing in Washington D.C., the Biden administration also lamented the security situation on the ground, asserting that things have worsened since Power visited Ethiopia nearly a month ago.

“Nearly one month after USAID Administrator Samantha Power was on the ground there in Ethiopia, she emphasized the dire humanitarian catastrophe that faces over 5.2 million people. The situation on the ground has only gotten worse since then. From the beginning of the crisis in northern Ethiopia, the United States has called for a negotiated ceasefire and unhindered humanitarian access,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters. 

“The truth is that access has been limited to but a trickle by the Government of Ethiopia. Warehouses sit empty in Tigray because the government has put a stranglehold around the region,” Price said, adding that “trucks with lifesaving assistance continue to remain idle.”

“As Administrator Power herself lamented a month ago, while desperate Ethiopians slide closer to famine. While we are concerned about any and all reports of humanitarian assistance being diverted from those for whom it is intended, humanitarian assistance must be allowed to reach populations in need by the Government of Ethiopia and all parties. That includes the TPLF. These parties must cease the violence that only worsens the current situation,” Price added.

The acknowledgement that TPLF offensives are also causing suffering in Ethiopia and displacing civilians now in need of humanitarian assistance could change the way the conflict is perceived in Washington DC and around the world.

Simon Ateba

Simon Ateba is Chief White House Correspondent for Today News Africa. Simon covers President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, the U.S. government, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions in Washington D.C. and New York City.

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