ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (CNS) — Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel of Addis Ababa welcomed a humanitarian truce to allow aid to reach millions of people in the war-affected region of Tigray.

The government announced the indefinite and immediate truce March 24 and urged the Tigray defense forces to desist from all acts of further aggression. In response, Tigrayan military leaders said they had accepted the offer for a truce, if it would allow aid to reach the millions of people in urgent need in their region.

“The church welcomes the government’s announcement of a truce in hopes that it will help the innocent people affected by the war,” Cardinal Souraphiel told journalists March 24, during a meeting of the Social and Development Commission of the Catholic Church in Ethiopia.

The war in Tigray — a semi-autonomous region in the north of Ethiopia — broke out in November 2020 after months of tensions between the government and regional leaders. Within 16 months, the conflict has killed thousands and displaced millions of people from their homes.

Despite a warning that starvation was threatening millions, no relief aid reached the region since mid-December, according to officials in the Diocese of Adigrat. In January, the World Food Program said nearly 40% of the people in Tigray suffered from extreme food shortages.

Humanitarian agencies have blamed the situation on a government blockade, but the government has accused the rebels of frustrating aid efforts.

“The government of Ethiopia believes that the situation warrants urgent measures to ensure those in need are able to receive aid in their localities,” said the government statement announcing the truce.

Agencies estimate that 9 million people in Tigray and neighboring regions are affected by the conflict and need humanitarian assistance.

The Catholic Church in Ethiopia has launched a support project to provide humanitarian assistance and rehabilitation to the people affected by insecurity and war in Tigray and the neighboring states. With a budget of about $2.6 million, the project will provide food and nonfood items to more than 217,000 people displaced from their homes and the host communities. The funding for the project has been provided by Caritas Internationalis and agencies such as the Catholic Near East Welfare Association.

Father Tishome Fikre, the general secretary of the Ethiopian bishops’ conference, said the church believed providing services would strengthen the trust-building process and tolerance among the communities living in the affected regions.