WFP Sends First Humanitarian Passenger Flight into Tigray, as Famine Edges Closer in the Region

PUBLISHED: Thu, 22 Jul 2021 19:54:22 GMT

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The first United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) passenger flight, which is managed by the United Nations World Food Programme, has touched down at Tigray’s Alula Aba Nega International Airport in Mekelle today.

It is the first passenger flight into the region since commercial flights were halted on 24 June and carried more than 30 employees from multiple humanitarian organisations working to deliver urgently needed assistance to conflict-affected communities across Tigray.

“WFP and our fellow emergency responders on the ground in Mekelle are all enormously relieved to see this UNHAS flight arrive today, bringing in colleagues who are all essential in our collective efforts to scale up the humanitarian response and for WFP to reach 2.1 million people with life-saving food assistance,” said Michael Dunford, WFP’s Regional Director for Eastern Africa.

From today, the UNHAS flights will operate twice a week, facilitating the regular movement of humanitarian personnel into and out of Tigray. However, the humanitarian response in the region continues to be challenged by a lack of sufficient food and other humanitarian supplies, limited communication services and no commercial supply chain.

With conflict escalating in surrounding regions, including Afar, the safe and secure passage for convoys to move humanitarian supplies into Tigray remains a primary concern for WFP and the humanitarian community, particularly after a WFP convoy was attacked on the morning of July 18 while attempting to move essential humanitarian cargo into Tigray.

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Another WFP-led convoy of over 200 trucks containing food and other essential humanitarian supplies is currently on standby in Semera and expected to depart for Tigray as soon as security clearances are assured. 

“Famine is preventable and the power to avert it is in the hands of all parties concerned. WFP is calling for all parties to agree to a ceasefire so the humanitarian response can be rapidly scaled up and all routes can be used urgently to reach those most in need,” added Dunford.