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First NGO aid gets to Ethiopia's Tigray, businesses to re-open

Ethiopians, who fled the conflict in the Tigray region in northern Ethiopia are seen receiving aid after reaching Al Qadarif State, Sudan on November 24, 2020 [Stringer - Anadolu Agency]
Ethiopians, who fled the conflict in the Tigray region in northern Ethiopia are seen receiving aid after reaching Al Qadarif State, Sudan on November 24, 2020 [Stringer - Anadolu Agency]

The first non-governmental aid convoy since fighting started arrived in the capital of Ethiopia's northern Tigray region on Saturday, as the government ordered businesses to re-open and officials to return to work, Reuters reports.

The federal government restricted access to Tigray after fighting began on Nov. 4 between its troops and the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), a political party that ruled the province. So far the conflict in Africa's second-most populous nation is believed to have killed thousands of people and displaced around 950,000.

But the tempo of fighting seems to have slowed since the government announced the capture of the regional capital Mekelle late last month, although information is hard to verify due to the restrictions.

Phone and internet connections are gradually being restored, but most of the region remains unreachable for journalists and outside aid agencies.

READ: Ethiopia to return refugees from Sudan

The convoy of seven white trucks that arrived in Mekelle was organised by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Ethiopian Red Cross, the ICRC said.

"Doctors and nurses have been … weeks without new supplies, running water, and electricity," said Patrick Youssef, the ICRC's regional director for Africa. "This medical shipment will inject new stocks, help patients," and reduce those impossible life-or-death triage decisions."

It's unclear what will happen to civilians displaced by the fighting.

Nearly 50,000 refugees, mostly Tigrayans, have crossed into eastern Sudan since early November. Nearly 15,000 are at Um Rakoba camp, where long lines of people waited for food with plates in their hands and new arrivals constructed shelters using tree branches.

"We don't have enough food or shelter here, but I am too scared to go back," said Tewelo Gabrageres, 35-year-old trader.

READ: Sudan harmed most by Ethiopia Nile dam conflict

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