WFP says delivering food in Tigray, hopes for air bridge soon

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GENEVA, July 2 (Reuters) - The U.N.'s World Food Programme has resumed deliveries in Ethiopia's Tigray region, but faces continuing access problems and is "way behind" in bringing life-saving supplies to people facing starvation, its emergency coordinator said on Friday.

The Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), the former rulers in the area, said on Monday it was back in control of the regional capital Mekelle after nearly eight months of fighting.

Tommy Thompson, WFP emergency coordinator, speaking by satellite phone from Mekelle, said that fighting continued in some "hot zones", and that its 35 staff had been "trapped" during the hostilities.

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"WFP suspended its operations for only about 48 hours and we began operating in the northwest fairly quickly thereafter, managing to reach probably by the end of this weekend probably about 40,000 people," he told a Geneva new briefing.

"We hope to start dispatching in central zones that were extremely hard hit and have lots of IPC 4 and 5 later today," he added, referring to international food insecurity classifications for emergency and famine, respectively.

But Thompson said he was "cautiously optimistic" an air bridge could be set up in coming days to speed aid delivery.

"The fact is that people have died, people are dying and more people will die if we are not allowed the ability to prevent it from happening and provide assistance," he said.

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Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay and Emma Farge;

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