The United Nations warned of millions children in Ethiopia’s conflict-riven Tigray region being cut-off from aid and basic humanitarian assistance.
As many as 2.3 million minors are struggling to get treatment for malnourishment, critical vaccines, emergency medicines, and water and sanitation supplies, UNICEF, the UN agency responsible for children, said Tuesday.
“We are extremely concerned that the longer access to them is delayed, the worse their situation will become as supplies of food, including ready-to-use therapeutic food for the treatment of child malnutrition, medicines, water, fuel and other essentials run low,” UNICEF executive director Henrietta Fore said in a statement.
The conflict between government forces and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) began in early November. Over 50,000 Ethiopian refugees have now crossed into Sudan, according to the UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency, of which nearly half are children.
UNICEF called for “urgent, sustained, unconditional and impartial humanitarian access” to the families affected and urged the Ethiopian government to allow the free movement of civilians wishing to seek safety elsewhere.
“Protecting these children, many of whom are refugees and internally displaced, and providing them with humanitarian aid must be a priority,” Fore added.
An agreement with the federal government, announced on December 2 by the UN, was supposed to allow aid workers “unimpeded, sustained and secure access” to those in need of humanitarian supplies in areas now under government control. At the time, the UNHCR said it was “poised” to resume full humanitarian activities in the Tigray region.
Yet on Friday the UN was forced to call again for “unfettered access to Tigray in order to reach people in need,” before UNICEF’s statement on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed visited Mekelle, the capital of Tigray, on Sunday. Telecommunications and electricity are being restored and humanitarian relief was being provided, he said in a tweet.