Food, medical supplies blocked as fighting rages in Ethiopia's Tigray, UN warns

Aid agencies are unable to restock food, health and other emergency supplies in Ethiopia's northern Tigray region, where federal troops are fighting with local forces, the United Nations warned on Thursday.

Members of Amhara regional militias, allied with the Ethiopian federal government, ride on their truck as they head to face the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF).
Members of Amhara regional militias, allied with the Ethiopian federal government, ride on their truck as they head to face the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF). © Tiksa Negeri, REUTERS

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed embarked on a military campaign against the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) last week, after accusing the regional rulers of attacking two federal military bases.

Telephone lines to the region were still down, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) said in its latest report on the crisis, hurting aid operations.

"Transport is not allowed to and from Tigray, as a result of which shortages of basic commodities are reportedly appearing, impacting the most vulnerable first and the most," UN OCHA said.

Aid groups were also concerned about the protection of children, women, the elderly and the disabled, from the military clashes, UN OCHA said.

Sudan has received more than 10,000 Ethiopian refugees since the fighting started, the Sudanese government said on Wednesday, warning that the figure could soon rise to 200,000.

“There are lots of children and women,” Al-Sir Khalid, the head of the refugee agency in Sudan's Kassala province, told The Associated Press. “They are arriving very tired and exhausted. They are hungry and thirsty since they have walked long distances on rugged terrain.”

Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, quoted by state news agency SUNA as he hosted Eritrean Foreign Minister Osman Saleh, called for a "stop to the fighting as soon as possible" and a return to the negotiating table.

'Crossed a red line'

Abiy, who at 44 is Africa's youngest leader, has so far resisted calls by the United Nations, the African Union and others for an immediate ceasefire and negotiations.

The Ethiopian leader, last year's Nobel Peace Prize laureate, said the TPLF had crossed a "red line" by attacking the military bases, a charge which the party denies.

There are widespread concerns that the fighting in Tigray could spread to other parts of Africa's second-most-populous country, and to the rest of Horn of Africa region.

Amhara regional state, which neighbours Tigray and has been backing Abiy, called off planned demonstrations against the Tigrayan ruling party.

"The protest is not timely due to current security concerns," said the state's communication office in a statement.

The UNHCR, the UN's refugee agency, said it was "deeply concerned for the more than 96,000" people currently in Ethiopian refugee camps, as well as 100,000 in Tigray who had already been internally displaced.

It said it "remains worried about the safety of refugees and humanitarian workers due to the relative proximity of the camps to the fighting and the deteriorating situation".


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