UN spokesman: key committee says 350,000 people are on hunger strike in Tigray

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UNITED NATIONS (AP) – The UN-led High-Level Committee for Rapid Response to Humanitarian Crises estimates that some 350,000 people in Ethiopia’s conflict-ridden Tigray region face hunger, a UN official said late Wednesday.

The assessment was presented on Monday at a meeting of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee of 18 UN non-UN organizations, chaired by the head of the UN humanitarian organization, Mark Lowcock. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres also attended the event, the official said.

The meeting note says millions of other people in Tigray are in urgent need of food to avoid hunger, said the official, who is not authorized to speak in public.

Last Friday, Lowcock warned that famine was imminent in Tygra and in the north of the country, saying there was a risk that hundreds of thousands or more would die.

No one knows how many thousands of civilians or combatants have been killed in months of political tensions between the government of Ethiopian President Abiy Ahmed and the Tigray leaders who once dominated him, escalated into war last November. Eritrea, Tigray’s longtime adversary, has allied with neighboring Ethiopia in the conflict.

The UN criticized the lack of access to all areas of Tigray for humanitarian workers seeking to deliver aid.

UN spokesman Stefan Dujarrik said Wednesday that UN staff on the ground are reporting continued blocked humanitarian movements, as well as interrogations, attacks and detentions of humanitarian workers at military checkpoints. The parties to the conflict also loot and confiscate “humanitarian assets and supplies,” he said.

According to Dujarrik, some areas of Tigray remain inaccessible, and in accessible areas “the situation is dire, including dysfunctional water supply systems and limited or no medical facilities.”

“The level of food insecurity and malnutrition is alarming,” Dujarrik said. “Preliminary reports from locations in Axum and Adwa in the central zone point to visible signs of hunger among internally displaced persons. In a community in the northwest area of ​​Tigraya, humanitarian workers noted an urgent need for food after a crop was burned or looted. ”

Lowcock said the war had destroyed the economy as well as businesses, crops and farms, and that there were no banking or telecommunications services in Tygra.

“We are already hearing about deaths related to hunger,” he said in a statement on Friday, urging the international community to “wake up” and “really activate,” including with money.

In late May, Lowcock said that since the start of the war, approximately 2 million people have been displaced, civilians have been killed and injured, rape and other forms of “heinous sexual violence” have become widespread and systematic, and the public and private infrastructure needed by civilians has been destroyed. including hospitals and farmland.

“Hundreds of thousands of people in northern Ethiopia are now suffering from hunger,” Loucock said at the time. “This is the most serious hunger problem the world has seen in the past ten years, since a quarter of a million Somalis died in 2011 as a result of hunger. It now has dire echoes of the colossal tragedy in Ethiopia in 1984. ”

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