With concern mounting about the food situation in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, there are conflicting claims about why supply trucks are stuck there, unable to transport further crucial supplies.
The United Nations (UN) says hundreds of aid trucks which made the journey up to Tigray from other parts of Ethiopia between mid-July and mid-September have not returned.
“We’ve been looking into what’s holding up the flow of desperately needed aid and the main mode of delivering aid into Tigray has been via road, through the Afar region,” it said.
UN aid agencies estimate that 100 trucks with food, non-food items and fuel, need to enter Tigray every day.
In the two months to September 16, 466 trucks had entered Tigray through the Afar region, but only 38 had made the return journey, according to the UN.
“At the moment, this is the primary impediment to moving humanitarian aid into Tigray. We are unable to assemble convoys of significant size due to lack of trucks,” a spokesperson for the World Food Programme said. “We’ve asked the UN where the trucks are, but they haven’t yet been able to provide clarification.”
Tigrayan forces fighting the Ethiopian government and its allies have laid the blame at the door of the Ethiopian government
“The truck drivers are provided with fuel that’s only [enough] for a one-way trip to Tigray. They are not provided [with] reserve fuel [to return] that is customary on such trips,” the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) said in a statement.
It also says truck drivers – many of them ethnic Tigrayans – complain of violence and intimidation during inspections at checkpoints manned by the Ethiopian military and local security officials outside Tigray.
It says they are not willing to go through these again to make the return journey.
There are also restrictions on the amount of cash that can be carried, and with banking services suspended inside Tigray, there is no money available for them when they arrive.
The Ethiopian government accepts that the failure of trucks to return from Tigray is hindering the supply of food aid.
It’s also been suggested by government officials that trucks could have been seized by the TPLF. -BBC