The Ethiopian government on Tuesday commissioned a UN agency to rebuild some of the destroyed infrastructure in Tigray, a region in conflict with Addis Ababa and controlled by rebel authorities, as part of a project funded by the World Bank (WB).
The WB awarded a $300 million grant to Ethiopia in April, funding a project to help conflict-affected communities in the country.
The project aims to rebuild infrastructure destroyed by the conflict and improve access to basic services and make it easier for victims of gender-based violence to access assistance programmes.
An agreement with the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) calls for the UN agency to "implement the activities defined by the first objective of the project in the Tigray region," the Ethiopian Ministry of Finance said in a statement Tuesday.
It will in particular "rebuild infrastructure providing essential services affected by the conflict".
"Unops will implement the project in Tigray until the situation in Tigray improves and allows the government to implement the project through its own structures," the statement said.
The second objective of the project "will be implemented by another third party" about which negotiations are underway, the ministry said.
Several of Ethiopia's international partners have suspended their aid since the start in November 2020 of a conflict between the federal government and rebels in Tigray, marked by numerous abuses and which has led to a serious humanitarian crisis in the north of the country.
In April, the WB became the first major financial institution to release funds to Ethiopia since the war began. Some observers saw a link with the announcement a few days earlier of a "humanitarian truce" in Tigray.
Since the truce, fighting has stopped in Tigray and the federal government has allowed desperately needed humanitarian aid to be delivered by road again after a three-month hiatus.
But the region remains without most basic services - electricity, telecommunications, banking - and several of Ethiopia's partners continue to press for their restoration.
At the end of June, the WB provided an additional $715 million in loans and grants to Ethiopia to help pastoralist communities - affected by conflict and unprecedented drought - cope with food insecurity.
A few days earlier, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said for the first time that he was open to negotiations with the Tigray rebels, who regained control of most of the region in 2021.