The top United Nations humanitarian official warned of the need for urgent steps to avert famine in Ethiopia’s state-of-the-art Tigray region, a Security Council briefing seen by the AFP news agency showed.
“There is a serious risk of starvation if aid is not increased in the next two months,” Mark Lowcock, the UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, wrote to the AFP on Wednesday.
Now in its seventh month, the Tigray conflict is estimated to have killed thousands of people and left about five million in need of help.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered a ground and air military operation in Tigray in November 2020 after accusing the ruling party in the northern region, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), of attacking camps in federal army. The TPLF, which dominated national politics for decades until Abiy came to power in 2018, said the federal force and its longtime enemy Eritrea had launched a “coordinated attack” against it.
Abiy, the winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, declared victory at the end of November after the military invaded the region’s capital, Mekelle. Fighting and abuses continue, sparking fears of a period of conflict that will have devastating effects on the civilian population.
Meanwhile, aid groups are constantly calling for full human access in the region’s six million people where ghost of hunger wandered for many months.
“Concrete steps are needed to break the vicious cycle between armed conflict, violence and food insecurity,” Lowcock said in his two -and -a -half -page letter, according to the AFP report.
“I invite members of the Security Council and other Member States to take any steps to prevent famine from occurring,” he said.
“Today, at least 20 per cent of the population in that area faces food insecurity,” he continued, adding that “destruction and violence against civilians continues even today throughout Tigray.”
“In the six and a half months since the start of the conflict in Tigray on the first of November 2020 an estimated two million people have been missing. Civilians have been killed and injured,” he said.
“Rape and other forms of horrific sexual violence are widespread and systematic. Public and private infrastructure and things necessary to survive civilians were destroyed, including hospitals and agricultural land, ”Lowcock warned.
The UN official estimated that “more than 90 percent of the harvest was lost due to looting, arson, or other destruction, and that 80 percent of the region’s livestock was stolen or killed”.
Lowcock also wrote that “despite the advances in March and cooperation with local authorities, human access, on the whole, is deteriorating”,
He added: “Humanitarian operations have been attacked, obstructed or delayed in the delivery of life -saving aid. Eight aid workers have been killed in Tigray in the past six months.”
In December, the Ethiopian government promised “non-human access” but many parts of Tigray, especially rural areas, have been further cut off due to active protests, according to an update (PDF) earlier this month at the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Parts of central, southern and south-eastern Tigray have been blocked by conflict parties since early March, according to OCHA, which warned that the scale of food insecurity in the region remains “large and alarming. ”.
In a report (PDF) published last month, the World Peace Foundation, a research organization based at Tufts University, warned of the imminent threat of famine and starvation in Tigray and accused Ethiopian and Eritrean troops of “systematically” disbanded the economy and food system of the region.
The Ethiopian embassy in London is stated in a statement “it rejects, in the strongest terms, the World Peace Foundation’s unsubstantiated accusations that the Ethiopian Government ‘starved the people of Tigray’ and used ‘hunger as a weapon of war’.”
“The Government, to date, has taken concrete steps to fully meet the needs of the people of the land by delivering life -saving food supplies to more than 4.2 million citizens of Tigray, in coordination to local and international partners, “according to the embassy.
Eritrea has it too REJECTED allegations of “using sexual violence and hunger as a weapon”, as well as obstruction of aid in a region where it is said that about 1.6 million people have relied since 2009 on humanitarian aid. In a letter last month to the Security Council, Sophia Tesfamariam, Eritrea’s ambassador to the UN, also said: “The allegations of rape and other crimes filed against Eritrean soldiers are not only brutal, but us a vicious attack on the culture and history of our people. ”