Senior United Nations officials have warned the Security Council that more than 400,000 people in Ethiopian Tigray are now in the grip of famine and that there is a risk of further clashes in the region despite a ceasefire unilateral federal government.
The Security Council held its first public meeting on Friday since fighting erupted last year between Ethiopian government forces – backed by troops from neighboring Eritrea – and TPLF fighters with the former ruling party of Tiger.
Acting UN aid chief Ramesh Rajasingham told the council that the humanitarian situation in Tigray had “dramatically worsened” in recent weeks.
“It is estimated that more than 400,000 people have crossed the threshold of famine and an additional 1.8 million people are on the brink of famine. Some suggest the numbers are even higher. 33,000 children are severely malnourished,” did he declare.
The Ethiopian government declared a unilateral ceasefire on Monday, which the TPLF dismissed as a joke. There are reports of continuing clashes in some places, as international pressure intensifies for all sides to pull out.
US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the Ethiopian government must demonstrate “that it really intends to use the ceasefire to deal with the humanitarian catastrophe. “, Warning that any denial of access to aid is” not an indication of a humanitarian ceasefire, but of a siege. “
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Ethiopian Ambassador to the UN Taye Atske Selassie Amde questioned the need for a public meeting of the Security Council, telling reporters the ceasefire had been declared to improve access to the United Nations. ‘help and the government hoped this could trigger dialogue as well.
Thomas-Greenfield urged parties to the conflict to “seize this moment”, warning that if they fail it could have devastating consequences for Ethiopia and the wider Horn of Africa.
Although Russia and China did not object to Friday’s public meeting of the Security Council on Tigray, they made it clear that they believed the conflict was internal to Ethiopia.
The Russian Ambassador to the UN said: “We believe that the interference of the Security Council in its resolution is counterproductive.”
Russia and China are both veto powers of the Council along with the United States, France and Britain.