The Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Samantha Power met with Ethiopian Minister of Finance Ahmed Shide on Friday on the sidelines of the IMF/World Bank Spring Meetings in Washington DC and both discussed a range of development and humanitarian issues in Ethiopia.
Power told Shide that the Biden administration acknowledges the recent progress towards improving humanitarian access in northern Ethiopia, however, it remains concerned about the lack of humanitarian access into Tigray and the suspension of basic services in the region.
“Administrator Power reinforced the U.S. government’s continuing concern on access and stressed that much more can be done to facilitate significant and sustained humanitarian access to all Ethiopians in need and restore essential services to the region,” her spokesperson Rebecca Chalif said on Saturday.
Chalif added that the leaders also discussed the impact of President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine on food and fertilizer prices in Ethiopia and the cascading effects of rising food prices across East Africa.
The two leaders also discussed accountability for human rights abuses, with Ms. Power telling Mr. Shide that the United States “remains committed to the people of Ethiopia and securing an immediate and lasting peace for the country.”
On Friday afternoon, the United States government also called for an urgent resumption of basic services in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, including electricity, telecommunications, and banking.
The American government called for a “significant and sustained unconditional and unhindered overland humanitarian access to meet the dire needs of millions of people in northern Ethiopia.”
Jalina Porter, Principal Deputy Spokesperson, told journalists from Washington that the Biden administration also strongly supports the declarations of the humanitarian truce by the Government of Ethiopia and the Tigray Regional Authority and welcomes the recent deliveries of humanitarian assistance to communities in need in the Afar and Tigray regions.
“However, we reiterate the importance of significant and sustained unconditional and unhindered overland humanitarian access to meet the dire needs of millions of people in northern Ethiopia as well as the urgency of resumption of basic services, which would include electricity, telecommunications, and banking. We also welcome the recent withdrawal of TPLF forces from some districts of Afar and underscore the importance of further withdrawals from the Afar Regional State,” she said.
Ms. Porter, speaking during a teleconference, added that the Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, David Satterfield, as well as Deputy Special Envoy Payton Knopf, recently concluded their visit to Ethiopia, “where they met with several stakeholders and pursued robust diplomacy on that trip.”
“They discussed the urgent need and sustained delivery for humanitarian aid for those in need in Ethiopia, and we continue to work with the Ethiopian Government as well as regional authorities, security forces, and other actors to advance that shared goal,” she added.
Ethiopia remains top priority
The Biden administration insisted on Tuesday that the devastating crisis in Ethiopia’s Tigray region remains a “top priority”, even as as urgent need for humanitarian aid persists.
“Since the beginning of the administration, this has been a top priority- the conflict in Ethiopia,” a senior administration official told Today News Africa during an interview in Washington.
The humanitarian truce declared by the government of Ethiopia on March 24, 2022, came as good news to millions of people across Tigray where war has left the region lacking basic necessities such as food and water.
However, World Health Organization Director General Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus lamented on Monday that in the past three to four weeks, only 69 trucks with humanitarian aid, or 4 percent of what is needed, have been allowed into Tigray by the Ethiopian and Eritrean governments who have been accused of enforcing a humanitarian blockade into the region.
While the Ethiopian government has publicly agreed to allow humanitarian aid to the region, the reality is that successful aid to the region has continued to be minimal as the situation continues to grow increasingly dire.
Despite challenges in reaching the region with humanitarian aid, the Biden administration has consistently reaffirmed that the United States is taking the crisis very seriously, insisting that progress is being made.
“It is a conflict that unfortunately has been going on for too long but I do think that we have made some very recent cognitive steps in that direction. We will continue to work and to press for increased humanitarian access into the affected areas,” a senior administration official told Today News Africa.
Money for northern Ethiopia as crisis persists
On Thursday, the United States announced that it will be providing nearly $313 million in additional humanitarian assistance to help people affected by the ongoing conflict in northern Ethiopia, saying that more than 90 percent of people in Tigray need aid.
“Across the Afar, Amhara, and Tigray regions, continued fighting and lack of humanitarian access has left as many as 9 million people facing severe food insecurity and has forced more than 2 million people to flee their homes,” the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) said. “In Tigray alone, more than 90 percent of people need aid, while across all three northern regions as many as 1 million people are projected to face famine-like conditions by June.”
USAID added that the new funding “will support emergency food and nutrition assistance to meet the needs of nearly 7 million people; strengthen community health facilities and mobile health teams to combat infectious diseases; provide humanitarian protection services, such as support for survivors of gender-based violence, psychosocial services, and child protection activities; and bolster logistics support to deliver aid to people in remote and hard-to-reach areas.”
Power also meets with Ken Ofori-Atta, Ghana’s Minister of Finance
Administrator Samantha Power also met with Ken Ofori-Atta, Ghana’s Minister of Finance on Friday to discuss a range of USAID’s development programs in the country and the urgent need to address rising food insecurity around the world.
“The Administrator and the Minister spoke about the urgent need to address food insecurity as Putin’s war in Ukraine causes prices to spike and more people to go hungry,” Chalif said. “Administrator Power outlined the recent launch of the U.S. Strategy to Prevent Conflict and Promote Stability and how USAID will work with Ghana and its regional neighbors to address the increasing pressures of violent extremist organizations.”