The United Nations said Wednesday it has reached an agreement with Ethiopia to provide humanitarian aid in the country’s northern Tigray region, where a month of conflict has worsened an existing humanitarian crisis.
The U.N. said the deal will give aid workers access to federal government-controlled areas of Tigray, where federal troops have been fighting the Tigray regional government.
The pact will allow food, medicine and other types of aid to be transported into the area, home to an estimated 6 million people, for the first time since the fighting erupted on Nov. 4. Some 600,000 people in the region were already dependent on food aid before the conflict began.
The U.N. has been among a number of organizations calling for access to the region amid the growing humanitarian crisis after foreign workers were forced to evacuate.
Spokesman Saviano Abreu said the U.N. would begin Wednesday by assessing the humanitarian needs of the region. “We are, of course, working to make sure assistance will be provided in the whole region and for every single person who needs it,” Abreu said.
Thousands of people are believed to have been killed in the fighting. Forty-five thousand have fled to neighboring Sudan.
The Ethiopian government did not immediately comment on the agreement.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has resisted international calls for de-escalation. He ordered an offensive in Tigray after forces of the region’s ruling TPLF party allegedly attacked a military base early last month.
The attack followed months of rising tension between the federal government and Tigray’s leaders. The Tigray regional government dominated Ethiopia’s ruling coalition for more than a quarter-century until Abiy took power in 2018.