Ethiopia commissions UN to help rebuild Tigray infrastructure

The Ethiopian government said Tuesday it has tasked a UN agency to help rebuild infrastructure in Tigray that was destroyed in the conflict between rebels and federal forces.

The reconstruction is part of a project funded by the World Bank, which provided Ethiopia with a $300 million grant in April to help conflict-affected communities.

The “National Recovery Program” aims to restore infrastructure, improve access to basic services and help victims of gender-based violence, the Treasury Department said in a statement.

It says the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) is “reconstructing the basic service delivery infrastructure” in Tigray, Ethiopia’s war-ravaged northernmost region that is largely under the control of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

“UNOPS will implement the project in Tigray until the situation in Tigray improves so that the government can implement the project with its own structure,” the ministry said.

It states that the other part of the program, related to assistance to victims of gender-based violence, will be implemented by the other side, and negotiations are currently underway.

Several of Ethiopia’s international partners suspended aid shortly after the Tigray conflict broke out between the government and the TPLF in November 2020.

The conflict was marked by numerous atrocities and a humanitarian crisis that left millions of people in need of emergency assistance.

In April, the World Bank became the first major financial institution to release funds for Ethiopia, a move that followed the announcement of a “humanitarian truce” in late March.

Since then, fighting in Tigray has largely subsided, and in April the government allowed relief convoys to the region to resume after they had been suspended for three months.

But Tigray remains in dire straits, deprived of basic services such as electricity, telecommunications and banking, and the UN has said hundreds of thousands of people are on the brink of starvation.

Last month, the World Bank agreed to provide $715 million in grants and loans to help pastoral communities in Ethiopia hit by conflict and devastating drought.

Just days earlier, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said for the first time that his government was open to talks with the TPLF, the party that dominated national politics for three decades until he took office in 2018.