WHO gets supplies to Ethiopia's Tigray but distribution lags

FILE - An Ethiopian woman scoops up portions of yellow split peas to be allocated to waiting families after it was distributed by the Relief Society of Tigray in the town of Agula, in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia, on May 8, 2021.Nearly 1,500 people died of malnutrition in just part of Ethiopia's blockaded Tigray region over a four-month period between July and October 2021, according to a new report published in Jan. 2022 by the region's health bureau. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis, File) (Ben Curtis, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

GENEVA – The U.N. health agency says it has been granted access to send medical supplies to Ethiopia's embattled Tigray region for the first time in six months, but fuel shortages are hampering distribution.

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, an Ethiopian who considers the region home, tweeted late Monday that the aid shipment that has been allowed in amounted to a "small portion" of what is needed, and said his agency “calls again for unfettered access to provide humanitarian aid.”

The supplies include essential medical equipment, personal protective equipment, antibiotics, medicines for malaria and diabetes, treatment for severe acute malnutrition and medicines and supplies for reproductive health, WHO said.

An airlift of the supplies through the U.N.'s World Food Program began Friday, and they are part of 33.5 metric tons of planned shipments, the agency said.

Months of political tensions between Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government and the Tigray leaders who once dominated Ethiopia’s government — which included Tedros — exploded into war in November 2020.

In June, Ethiopia’s government cut off almost all access to food aid, medical supplies, cash and fuel in Tigray. WFP said last month that three-quarters of Tigray’s population of 6 million are “using extreme coping strategies to survive” and more than a third “are suffering an extreme lack of food.”