91% of Tigray Population Threatened with Starvation
The United Nations warns that more than 400,000 people are starving in Ethiopia's northern Tigray region, which has been mired in war for eight months. Ethiopian authorities threaten to prevent aid because rebels regained control of the region's capital.
A high-ranking UN official has warned that more than 400,000 people have "entered into famine" in northern Ethiopia's Tigray region, which has been at war for eight months. He is calling on the rebels to respect the unilateral ceasefire announced by the Ethiopian authorities, which will facilitate bringing humanitarian aid into the region.
The conflict in Tigray took a major turning point last Monday, with the announcement of forces emanating from the Tigray People's Liberation Front to regain control of Mekele, the provincial capital.
Non-governmental organizations and the World Food Program said that this week, Ethiopian forces destroyed two bridges vital to transporting aid to Tigray.
The situation has "significantly deteriorated," Acting Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Ramesh Rajasingham said on Friday during the first public meeting of the UN Security Council on Tigray since the beginning of the conflict last November.
"We estimate that more than 400,000 people have entered into famine, and another 1.8 million are on the threshold of famine. Some say the numbers are still higher and 33,000 children are suffering from acute malnutrition," Rajasingham added.
The humanitarian official stressed that a large number of people "depend on our ability to get them food and medicine, so we must reach them now, not next week, now."
On Friday, Ethiopia condemned being accused of planning to prevent aid from entering Tigray after the rebels took control of the region.
"Suggesting that we plan to suffocate the Tigrayans by denying humanitarian access and using hunger as a weapon of war exceeds our limits," Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen told diplomats he met at a hotel in the capital, Addis Ababa.
Demecki reiterated the government's position by saying that the ceasefire was motivated by humanitarian concerns and aimed at facilitating land cultivation.
The Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister considered that some of the Tigray Liberation Front leaders are innocent and can be negotiated with, which was rejected by Ethiopian officials.
The war has so far caused huge casualties and a horrific humanitarian crisis, and the United Nations World Food Program says 5.2 million people, or 91% of the population of Tigray, need urgent food aid.
On Friday, the program said it had resumed relief operations after a two-day hiatus, hoping to reach 30,000 people "by the end of the week".
About a month ago, the United Nations warned of an exacerbation of famine in the Tigray region, according to an unpublished report by United Nations agencies and aid groups.