For the first time in nine months of war in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, aid workers will this week run out of food to deliver to millions of people who are going hungry there, the head of the US government’s humanitarian agency said.
“USAID and its partners as well as other humanitarian organizations have depleted their stores of food items warehoused in Tigray,” Samantha Power, head of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), said in a statement late on Thursday.
War broke out in November between Ethiopian troops and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which controls the region.
The conflict has been marked by allegations of war crimes, killed thousands and sparked a humanitarian crisis in one of the world’s poorest regions. The UN warned last month that more than 100 000 children in Tigray could die of hunger.
On Thursday, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for an immediate ceasefire and unrestricted aid access in Tigray.
“People in Tigray are starving with up to 900 000 in famine conditions and more than five million in desperate need of humanitarian assistance,” Power said.
Spokespeople for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the government’s emergency task force on Tigray did not respond to requests for comments.
Abiy’s spokesperson told a news conference last week that 277 trucks of aid have entered Tigray, without specify the time period in which the trucks entered. Billene Seyoum, the spokesperson, also said that more than ten international aid groups and United Nations agencies are active in humanitarian efforts in Tigray, and that the federal government is also providing support.
Power’s statement said that 100 trucks carrying food and life-saving supplies need to be arriving each day in Tigray to meet the “vast” humanitarian needs there. As of a few days ago, only about 320 trucks had arrived, less that 7% of what is required, the statement read.
The Ethiopian government declared a unilateral ceasefire in June after Tigrayan forces re-captured the regional capital Mekelle and retook most of the region. The Tigrayan forces dismissed this as a “joke” and issued preconditions for truce talks.