UN footage from northern Ethiopia shows humanitarian crisis

A small group of Tigray protesters gather outside of the United Nations in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt-Getty Images)

Footage of war-hit northern Ethiopia published by the UN World Food Programme (WFP) on Monday reflected the severe humanitarian crisis there, after the United Nations warned that a de facto blockade on aid is bringing millions to the brink of famine.

War broke out 10 months ago between Ethiopia’s federal troops and forces loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which controls the Tigray region. Thousands have died and more than two million people have been forced to flee their homes.

The United Nations last week called on all parties in the war in Tigray to allow the movement of aid into the region where it said 5.2 million people, or 90% of the population, urgently need humanitarian assistance. Those include 400,000 people who are already facing famine conditions, it said.

The prime minister’s spokesperson, Billene Seyoum, last week dismissed allegations that the Ethiopian government is blocking aid.

The footage showed a distribution of emergency food aid by the WFP on August 23 in Asgede district in northwestern Tigray. Sacks of grain were loaded on camels and brought to the remote area, where many residents were cut off from outside assistance during months of war.

The supplies delivered that day were among the last remaining stocks in Tigray region, where no food or other humanitarian aid entered between August 20 and September 5. The United Nations estimates 100 trucks of aid need to be entering Tigray each day to meet the needs of the population.

“We don’t have any food stocks at the moment to plan with or to distribute,” said Satyen Tait, a staff member from WFP’s Ethiopia operation.

The spread of fighting to the Afar and Amhara regions has uprooted at least 300,000 more people and more than 1.7 million in those two regions now need food aid, the world body says.

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