UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United Nations warned Thursday that some U.N. agencies and aid groups will be forced to halt operations in Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region if humanitarian supplies, fuel and cash are not delivered very soon.
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said no trucks with food and other aid have been able to enter Tigray since Dec. 15 and the humanitarian situation “continues to deteriorate.”
The U.N. needs about 100 truck-loads to enter Tigray every day to meet the needs of at least 5.2 million of the 6 million people in Tigray, but Dujarric said that since July 12 only 1,338 trucks have entered the region, which is less than 12% of the number needed.
As of Jan. 3, he said, the U.N.’s partners who have been distributing food and other aid in Tigray have only around 10.000 liters of fuel left. “At least 60,000 liters of fuel are needed to dispatch the limited food supplies that are available in Mekele,” Tigray’s capital, he said.
Without cash, the U.N. can’t buy local supplies and pay local staff, Dujarric said, and without fuel it can’t move trucks to deliver food or get to areas where it isn’t present to assess the needs of the people.
“So there may be even greater need that we’re not aware of because of fuel shortages (that) limit our ability to move,” he said.
Tens of thousands of people have been killed in the Tigray conflict that erupted in November 2020 between Ethiopian forces and fighters from Tigray, who dominated the national government before Abiy Ahmed became prime minister in 2018.
As a result of a months-long government blockade, some of Tigray’s 6 million people have begun starving to death, according to aid groups. Thousands of ethnic Tigrayans have been detained or forcibly expelled in an atmosphere stoked by virulent speeches against Tigrayans by some senior Ethiopian officials. Alarmed human rights groups say some of the anti-Tigrayan rhetoric is hate speech.
After a sweeping campaign that began in early July, Tigrayan forces who said they were fighting to end the blockade won control of large parts of the neighboring Amhara and Afar regions and moved closer to Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. The government declared a state of emergency in early November and its military, reportedly strengthened by aerial drones, launched an offensive.
Tigrayans retreated to their region in December, claiming they wanted to give a chance for negotiations and peace, but government officials said the Tigrayan forces are crushed and were forced to retreat.
The United Nations urged all parties “to allow unimpeded and sustained access to people in Tigray, Amhara and Afar,” Dujarric said.
He said Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “has been extremely active on the phone, including today, speaking with leaders of several countries that can have a positive influence on the situation” as well as African Union mediators.