The Tigray region in Ethiopia is in ‘serious’ danger of famine, warns a top UN official

A senior UN official has warned the Security Council that urgent action is needed to prevent famine in the war-torn Tigray region of Ethiopia, in a briefing seen by AFP.

“There is a serious risk of famine if aid is not expanded over the next two months,” said Mark Lowcock, UN Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Aid Coordinator.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops to Tigray in early November to disarm and detain leaders of the regional government party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

He said the move came in response to TPLF attacks on federal army camps.

More than six months later, Lowcock said, the fighting and abuse continues in Tigray, where the specter of famine has been floating for several months.

“Concrete action is urgently needed to break the vicious circle between armed conflict, violence and food insecurity,” Lowcock said in his two and a half page note on Tuesday.

“I urge members of the Security Council and other member states to take all possible measures to prevent famine,” he said.

Today, at least 20 percent of the population in that area faces emergency food insecurity, he said, adding that “destruction and violence against civilians continues even now in Tigray.”

“In the six and a half months since the conflict in Tigray began in early November 2020, an estimated two million people have been displaced. Civilians are being killed and injured,” he added.

“Rape and other forms of revolting sexual violence are widespread and systematic. Public and private infrastructure and objects vital to civilian survival have been destroyed, including hospitals and farmland,” he warned.

The UN official estimated that “more than 90 percent of the crop was lost to looting, burning or other destruction, and that 80 percent of the livestock in the region was looted or slaughtered”.

The government blames TPLF

“Despite improvements in March and the cooperation of the authorities at the local level, access for humanitarian aid in general has deteriorated recently,” wrote Lowcock.

“Humanitarian operations are being attacked, hindered or delayed in delivering life-saving aid. Eight aid workers have been murdered in Tigray in the past six months.”

Abiy’s government has said it is committed to investigating human rights violations and has provided “full and unimpeded” access to aid workers.

In a series of Twitter posts Tuesday evening, the State Department partially blamed the TPLF for aid disruptions.

“Remains” of the group have “humanitarian workers, truck drivers and looted food and non-food items about to be delivered to those in need of support,” it said.

The ministry also said the government had covered most of the food aid, “but it is still the subject of attacks from some quarters who are reluctant to provide concrete support.”


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