UN aid chief Martin Griffiths said on Tuesday he thinks a famine has taken hold in Tigre, Ethiopia, where a nearly three-month-long “de-facto blockade” cut aid delivery to 10% of those needed in the war-torn region. is banned.
Griffith told Reuters during an interview that his request was simple: “Move those trucks.”
“It is man-made, it can be fixed by the act of the government,” he said.
War broke out 10 months ago between Ethiopian federal troops and forces loyal to the Tigre People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which controls the Tigre. Thousands have died and more than two million are forced to flee their homes.
Griffiths quoted a United Nations assessment in June, saying, “We predicted that 400,000 people were at risk of famine in a famine-like situation, and the estimate was that if they did not receive adequate aid, they would go into famine.” Will go.”
“I think something like this is happening,” he said, adding that it was difficult to know exactly what the situation was like on the ground in Tigre because of the aid blockade and the lack of fuel, cash and trucks.
Ethiopia’s UN mission in New York said that “any claim on the existence of the blockade is unfounded.” It said aid groups “faced a shortage of trucks, as almost all trucks did not return that traveled to Tigre to deliver aid.”
According to UN reports, truck drivers carrying aid to Tigre have been shot at least twice and some Tigreyan drivers have been arrested in the neighboring region of Afar, although they were later released.
Griffiths said too many trucks go to Tigre and don’t return, adding to human problems. He said no fuel trucks had gone to Tigre since late July.
“First of all, they probably don’t have fuel to come out,” he said. “And secondly, they don’t want to, so the consequences of human actions – for whatever reason – are problematic.”
The United Nations in Ethiopia said on 16 September that only 38 of the 466 trucks that entered the Tigre since July 12 had returned. The World Food Program in Ethiopia posted on Twitter on Tuesday that 61 commercial trucks had left Tigre in recent days and that more departures were expected in the coming weeks.
“We will continue to work with transporters to ensure the trucks are on the road, facilitating the delivery of humanitarian aid,” WFP Ethiopia said.
In Tigre, the United Nations says 5.2 million people, or 90% of the population, are in need of help.
According to the United Nations, screening of children under the age of 5 during the first half of September revealed that 22.7% are malnourished and more than 70% of the approximately 11,000 pregnant or lactating women are severely malnourished.
“By comparison, this is about the same level of malnutrition that we saw at the start of the Somali famine in Somalia in 2011,” Griffiths said.
Griffiths said reaching the Tigre required the assistance of 100 trucks a day, but only 10% had gained access in the past three months.
“We need the Ethiopian government to do what they promised to do, which is to facilitate access,” said Griffiths, who attended the annual United Nations gathering of world leaders in New York last week. He met Ethiopia’s Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen.
Mekonnen assured him that access was improving, but Griffiths said, “it needs to be improved further.”