Reports from aid workers in the conflict-stricken region of Ethiopia show an increase in acute malnutrition as insecurity, bureaucracy and the presence of various armed actors hamper humanitarian efforts.
A new United Nations report has sounded the alarm over a very critical malnutrition situation taking place in the war-torn Tigray region of Ethiopia, citing persistent insecurity, bureaucracy and the presence of various armed actors as the main obstacles to efforts to provide life-saving assistance in rural areas still beyond the reach of humanitarian workers for more than 100 days in conflict.
Despite some progress, the humanitarian response remains drastically inadequate given the large size of needs across the region, the report from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OHCA) said on Saturday.
Assistance remains particularly limited in rural areas due to access restrictions and security instability, and there are gaps and acute challenges across sectors.
This came after the Ethiopian Red Cross warned earlier in February that without improved humanitarian access in a region where 80 percent of the population of six million is still inaccessible, tens of thousands of people could starve to death in two months.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered troops in the northern region on November 4, saying the operation was in response to alleged attacks on federal army camps by the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF), the regional governing party that once dominated the countries’ federal government. Abiy declared victory on November 28 after the TPLF withdrew from the regional capital, Mekelle, and major cities, but low-level fighting continues. Some senior TPLF members remain at large, even though the federal government has captured or killed a number of former officials.
In one of the most sincere public comments yet from the Ethiopian government, Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde noted in a statement Friday major delays that remain in reaching people in need.
The needs are extraordinary, but we can not claim not to see or hear what is going on, she said after a visit to Mekelle.
The blockade imposed by the government of the northern region and a close interruption of communication has made the access and evaluation of aid agencies dealing with the humanitarian crisis extremely difficult. He has also made it impossible for the media seeking entry to investigate artillery attacks in populated areas, deliberate targeting and massacres of civilians, extrajudicial killings, widespread looting and rape.
Still, the OCHA document noted that reports from field aid workers indicate an increase in acute malnutrition across the region.
According to the report, a screening of 227 children under the age of five showed extremely high malnutrition, although it did not mention the number of cases.
The UN agency also reported that a screening of more than 3,500 children found 109 with severe acute malnutrition. The World Health Organization describes that condition as when a person is extremely weak and in danger of dying.
Malnutrition (in Tigray) is expected to worsen as families are limited to fewer meals each day, the report said.
Furthermore, OCHA noted that extremely disturbing reports of attacked civilians continue to emerge, including rapes and other forms of gender-based violence.
Displaced women and children are at increased risk of abuse and exploitation, and recent assessments at collective centers for displaced people in Mekelle, Adigrat and Shire showed that severe lack of infrastructure leaves women and girls exposed to sexual violence and based on gender, the ratio marked.
Thousands are believed to have died since the fighting began, with hundreds of thousands forced from their homes and some 60,000 fleeing to neighboring Sudan. Ethiopia on Friday said humanitarian aid had reached 2.7 million people in Tigray.
Humanitarian workers have described trying to claim a plot of land from authorities including those from the neighboring Amhara region who have settled in several Tigray communities, as well as soldiers from neighboring Eritrea whom witnesses have accused of widespread looting and burning of crops. .
Eritrea and Ethiopia have both previously denied that Eritrean troops were operating in Ethiopian territory.
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