As conflict rages in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, humanitarian groups sound the alarm over the threat of hunger as roads are blocked, airports are closed.
The Associated Press reported Wednesday that according to an internal assessment by a humanitarian group, “will stay where they are, there is no place in Tigray where the situation is any different and they cannot cross over into the other regions of Ethiopia because of fear of what would be done to them.”
Since Ethiopia’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced the operation against the powerful regional party the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), vehicles transporting food, fuel and medical supplies have been stuck outside the region’s borders
“I call for full access to reach people in need wherever they are; safe passage for civilians seeking assistance; and the security of aid workers,” UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock said in a statement.
He added that even before the conflict almost 1 million in the Tigray region needed humanitarian assistance.
Accordingly, the UN allocated $20m for anticipatory action to fight hunger in Ethiopia.
Meanwhile, TPLF leader Debretsion Gebremichael confirmed to a local TV station on Wednesday that his soldiers had lost control of the towns in the south and west of Tigray, but said it was temporary and vowed to defeat Abiy’s forces.
“Tigray is now hell to its enemies. The people of Tigray will never kneel,” the TPLF said in a statement.
On the other hand, Reuters reported that Ethiopian peacekeepers in Somalia have disarmed between 200 and 300 of their ethnic Tigrayan colleagues over the past week, citing four security and diplomatic sources.
According to Reuters, weapons of ethnic Tigrayan soldiers were confiscated due to concerns over their loyalty.
However, the Ethiopian government, a military spokesman and African Union (AU) peacekeeping force did not respond to Reuters calls and messages for comment.
On Tuesday, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said that a “full-scale humanitarian crisis” is unfolding as thousands of refugees flee ongoing fighting in Ethiopia’s Tigray region each day to seek safety in eastern Sudan.
More than 27,000 have now crossed into Sudan through crossing points in Kassala and Gedaref states, as well as a new location further south at Aderafi, where Ethiopian refugees started crossing over the weekend, according to UNHCR.
According to the agency, the scale of the influx is the worst that part of the country has seen in over 20 years, according to the agency.
“Women, men and children have been crossing the border at the rate of 4,000 per day since 10 November, rapidly overwhelming the humanitarian response capacity on the ground,” said Babar Baloch, UNHCR spokesperson, briefing reporters in Geneva.
“Refugees fleeing the fighting continue to arrive exhausted from the long trek to safety, with few belongings”, he added.