A new United Nations report has sounded the alarm over a “very critical malnutrition situation” unfolding in Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region, citing continuing insecurity, bureaucracy and the presence of “various armed actors” as major obstructions to the efforts to deliver life-saving aid to rural areas still out of reach for humanitarian workers more than 100 days into the conflict.
“Despite some progress, the humanitarian response remains drastically inadequate compared to the sheer magnitude of needs across the region,” the report by the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OHCA) said on Saturday.
“Assistance remains particularly limited in rural areas due to access constraints and security volatility, and there are acute gaps and challenges across all sectors.”
It came after the Ethiopian Red Cross warned earlier in February that without improved humanitarian access to a region where 80 percent of the population of six million is still unreachable, tens of thousands of people could starve to death after two months.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered troops into the northern region on November 4, saying the operation was in response to alleged attacks on federal army camps by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the regional governing party that once dominated the country’s federal government. Abiy declared victory on November 28 after the TPLF withdrew from the regional capital, Mekelle, and major towns, but low-level fighting continues. Some senior TPLF members remain at large, though the federal government has captured or killed a number of former officials.
In one of the frankest public comments yet by Ethiopia’s government, Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde noted in a statement on Friday “significant delays that remain in reaching people in need”.
“The needs are tremendous, but we cannot pretend that we do not see or hear what is unfolding,” she said following a visit to Mekelle.