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Drought, hunger and fighting leave Ethiopia in ‘very difficult humanitarian situation’

United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG)

Amidst deteriorating levels of malnutrition and Ethiopia’s worst drought in 40 years, 17 million people are being targeted for humanitarian assistance, the UN spokesperson said on Wednesday. 

“Ethiopia is facing a very difficult humanitarian situation to say the least,” Stéphane Dujarric told journalists at UN Headquarters in New York at a regular press briefing. 

Over 24 million people have received humanitarian assistance this year, including food aid for more than 20 million, agriculture assistance as well as water, sanitation, and hygiene services for more than three million each. 

At the same time, he said, “parts of the country face a risk of flooding in the coming weeks and more than 1.7 million people are likely to be impacted, including more than 400,000 men, women and children at risk of displacement.” 

Fighting in Tigray regon 

At the same time, Secretary-General António Guterres said that he is “deeply shocked and saddened by the news of the resumption of hostilities in Ethiopia”.  

The UN chief made a strong appeal for an immediate cessation of hostilities and the resumption of peace talks between the Government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). 

“Ethiopians, Tigrayans, Amharas, Oromos, Afars, have already suffered too much”, Mr. Guterres lamented.

The Secretary-General also asked for the full guarantee of humanitarian access to people in need and the reestablishment of public services.  

War erupted in Tigray in November 2020 and spilled into neighbouring Afar and Amhara a year ago. 

Frontline protection needed 

In a positive development, the Spokesperson pointed out that the second batch of 840 tons of fertilizer to support farmers in the planting season had arrived in Tigray. 

However, he continued, the UN is “very concerned for the civilians in frontline areas and call on all parties to adhere to their obligations under international humanitarian law to ensure their protection”. 

The UN official cited an example of the impact triggered by the renewed fighting, pointing to an incident that morning, when Tigray Forces forcibly entered the World Food Programme (WFP) warehouse in Mekelle, taking 12 full fuel tankers with 570,000 litres of fuel. 

The fuel stocks were to be used solely for humanitarian purposes to distribute food, fertilizer and other emergency relief items. 

“This loss of fuel will impact humanitarian operations supporting communities in Northern Ethiopia”, Mr. Dujarric said. 

“We condemn any looting or confiscation of humanitarian goods or humanitarian premises, and we call on all parties to uphold their obligations under international humanitarian law and to respect humanitarian personnel, activities, assets and goods”.   

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG).

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