The United Nations on Friday said that more than 400,000 people in Ethiopia’s conflicted and war-prone Tigray region are now facing the worst global famine in decades and 1.8 million are on the brink, and warned that despite the government’s unilateral cease-fire there is a serious potential for conflict in western Tigray region.
RAMESH RAJASINGHAM, Acting Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said that 400,000 people have “crossed the threshold into Famine”- with another 1.8 million on the brink of following them.
Some 1.7 million people have been displaced by fighting between Ethiopian troops and the Tigray Defence Force, with 60,000 refugees crossing the border into neighbouring Sudan, added Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs.
And more than 1,200 incidents of serious and sexual and gender-based violence have been reported- a number that is likely just a fraction of the actual number of cases in a conflict that is impacting women and children especially hard.
“The lives of many of these people in Tigray depends on our ability to reach them with food, medicine, nutrition supplies and other humanitarian assistance”, the acting relief chief told the 15-member Security Council.
“And we need to reach them now. Not next week. Now”, he added as he called for timely, unimpeded, safe and sustained humanitarian access- which by international humanitarian law, must be guaranteed by all combatants.
It was the Council’s first public meeting on Tigray since the crises erupted eight months ago. It came four days after Ethiopia announced a unilateral humanitarian cease-fire, on which the Tigray Defence Force, which now controls the Tigrayan capital Mekelle, has yet to agree to.
The largely agricultural Tigray region of about 6 million people already had a food security crisis amid a locust outbreak when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on November 4 announced fighting between his forces and those of the defiant regional government. Tigray leaders dominated Ethiopia for almost three decades but were sidelined after Abiy introduced reforms that won him the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019.