United Nations, Jul 2 (EFE).- More than 400,000 people in the Ethiopian region of Tigray are experiencing famine, with another 1.8 million on the brink, the United Nations warned Friday.
Ramesh Rajasingham, acting humanitarian aid chief of the UN, warned the Security Council that the situation in the region has “worsened dramatically” in the last two weeks and the lives of many will depend on whether or not humanitarian aid can be provided immediately.
“We need to reach them now. Not next week. Now,” stressed Rajasingham, who demanded humanitarian organizations be given safe and unimpeded access to the area, following the recent attacks and obstacles put in place by the parties to the conflict.
In recent days, the UN has denounced major problems reaching people in need of assistance in Tigray, despite the fact that on Monday the Ethiopian government announced a unilateral ceasefire that ended an eight-month military offensive.
On Friday, the UN’s World Food Program (WFP) resumed distribution of food in the area, but said it continues to have access problems.
Humanitarian sources, who prefer to remain anonymous, confirmed to EFE on Thursday that, despite the cessation of hostilities declared by Addis Ababa, the blockade on the region is getting worse, increasing the pressure on the civilian population.
In recent weeks the situation of the population has continued to deteriorate, with a significant increase in food insecurity compared to what was already the “the worst famine situation we have seen in decades,” Rajasingham told the Council.
There are some 33,000 children with severe malnutrition and the crisis will continue to worsen with the upcoming arrival of the rainy season, which also creates the risk of disease outbreaks, he said.
In all, some 5.2 million people need humanitarian assistance, making it vital to be able to get more supplies into Tigray.
“What we need first and foremost is for all armed and security actors to provide guarantees for safe road access for humanitarian workers and supplies to and from Tigray, as well as to and from the most remote parts of the region,” Rajasingham said, adding that here are currently five Unicef trucks blocked in Afar, and this week a WFP convoy was prevented from entering the region.
Air access is also necessary, according to Rajasingham, who announced that the Ethiopian government has authorized a humanitarian flight Saturday to Mekelle, the regional capital, although he urged to ensure that these permits are not sporadic.
The crisis in Tigray began when the federal government launched an offensive on Nov. 4 against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the ruling party in the region, after an escalation of tensions and in retaliation for the seizure of a federal army base in November.
The conflict has so far left thousands of people dead, about 2 million displaced, and at least 75,000 Ethiopians have fled to neighboring Sudan, according to official data.
The UN stressed Friday that Ethiopia is at a critical juncture and urged the TPLF to join the government ceasefire pact immediately.
Friday’s meeting is the first public one that the Security Council has held on the crisis, since some of its members consider the conflict to be an internal affair and do not want the UN involved. EFE