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NAIROBI: The UN says Ethiopia’s Tigray region is facing a very critical malnutrition situation as large rural areas where many people fled during three months of fighting remain out of reach.

The UN humanitarian agency also said in a new report that Ethiopian defense forces continue to occupy a hospital in the city of Abi Adi, preventing up to 500,000 people from accessing health services in a region where the health system has largely collapsed under looting. and artillery fire.

The alarm is rising for the fate of the Tigray regions around 6 million people as fighting is said to be fierce as never before between Ethiopian and allied forces and those supporting the now fugitive Tigray leaders who once dominated the Ethiopian government.

The needs are extraordinary, but we cannot claim not to see or hear what is happening, Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde said in a statement after visiting the Tigray capital, Mekele.

In one of the most candid public comments yet from the Ethiopian government, she noted the significant delays that remain in reaching people in need.

Ethiopia on Friday said humanitarian aid had reached 2.7 million people in Tigray.

But the UN report calls the current response drastically inappropriate, although some progress has been made.

With about 80 percent of the population still unattainable, according to the Ethiopian Red Cross earlier this month, fears are growing that more people are dying of starvation.

The next crucial weeks to prevent hunger, the German Foreign Office said in a brief statement last week after hearing accounts of a visit by EU envoys to Ethiopia.

The new UN report released on Friday says that even in areas that can be reached, a screening of 227 children under the age of five showed extremely high malnutrition, although it did not mention the number of cases.

He also says 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 UN report says.

The Tigray conflict began at a tangible time, shortly before the harvest and months after the regional locust outbreak. The majority of the population are subsistence farmers.

The UN report cites bureaucratic obstacles and the presence of various armed actors as complications in the distribution of aid.

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. .

The Ethiopian government denies the presence of Eritrean soldiers, although the interim government of the Tigray regions has confirmed it and accused them of looting food aid, according to a recent VOA interview.

The UN report describes a dire situation in which COVID-19 services have been halted in the Tigray region, displaced people in some cases are sleeping 30 in a single class and host communities are under tremendous strain.

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