The United Nations is sounding the alarm bells in Ethiopia. More than 400,000 people have “Crossed the threshold of famine” in Tigray where the situation is “Considerably worsened”, said on Friday (July 2nd) the Acting Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Ramesh Rajasingham. “It is estimated that more than 400,000 people have crossed the threshold of famine and that an additional 1.8 million people are on the brink of famine”, he warned, during the first public meeting of the UN Security Council on Tigray since the outbreak of the conflict in November. “Some suggest the numbers are even higher. 33,000 children suffer from severe malnutrition. The lives of many of these people depend on our ability to reach them with food, medicine ”.
Call for a ceasefire
The United Nations also urges the rebel forces, known as the Tigray Defense Forces (TDF), “To immediately and completely approve the ceasefire” decreed by the Ethiopian government. “A ceasefire observed by all parties would not only facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid, but would also be a starting point for the political efforts needed to chart a way out of the crisis.” UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo said at the opening of the Security Council meeting.
Destruction of two bridges
The destruction this week of two crucial bridges for the delivery of aid to Tigray is causing concern. UN officials and diplomats fear the situation will worsen, with power and telecommunications cut, flights suspended and most of the region’s roads now impassable. Several NGOs have called for an effective application of the ceasefire. Oxfam proposes, for its part, the establishment of an “air bridge” to facilitate the delivery of aid.
Inclusive dialogue with the legal opposition
Accused of wanting to prevent humanitarian aid from reaching Tigray where its army has lost ground, the Ethiopian government denies any responsibility. “The insinuation that we plan to suffocate the Tigrayan people by denying humanitarian access and using hunger as a weapon of war is unacceptable”, said Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen. According to him, the government is preparing for a “Inclusive dialogue” with “The legal opposition parties, the grassroots members of the TPLF who show their readiness to choose a peaceful path, the business community, civil society organizations, elders and other eminent figures”. The Ethiopian leaders, however, exclude any discussion with the leaders of the TPLF who should, according to them, be sanctioned for their “Responsibilities”,
The conflict in Tigray took a major turn on Monday, June 28, with the capture of the regional capital Mekele by forces favorable to the dissident regional authorities, from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). After months of tension, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent the army to Tigray on November 4 to capture TPLF leaders, accusing them of orchestrating attacks on federal military bases, which the TPLF denied. Since then, fighting has never ceased between pro-TPLF forces and the Ethiopian army, supported by troops from the neighboring regional authorities of Amhara and the army of neighboring Eritrea.