NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — The head of the United Nations World Food Program says the agency will “run out of food” in Ethiopia’s conflict-hit Tigray region on Friday, while hundreds of thousands of people there face the world’s worst famine crisis in a decade.
Some 170 trucks with food and other supplies are “stuck” in the neighboring Afar region and “must be allowed to move NOW,” David Beasley tweeted on Tuesday, noting that 100 such trucks are needed per day in Tigray. “People are starving.”
International pressure is again rising on Ethiopia’s government to allow badly needed food and other supplies into Tigray, where aid hasn’t reached some communities since the war started in November between Ethiopia’s military and Tigray forces. The Associated Press has reported that scores of people have begun to starve to death.
Shortly after the WFP chief’s statement, Ethiopia’s government blamed the aid delivery problem on Tigray forces’ “provocations” in the Afar region, which the U.N. says has the only remaining road route into Tigray. But a WFP convoy trying to use that route was attacked on July 18, and insecurity remains a challenge.
Ethiopia’s government in June declared a unilateral cease-fire, saying it was in part on humanitarian grounds, while its forces retreated from Tigray and Tigray forces retook the regional capital and many other areas. Calling the cease-fire a “sick joke,” the Tigray forces vowed to secure the region and chase “enemies” over its borders if needed.
“Our forces are advancing in every direction and no one is going to stop them, not even rain,” spokesman Getachew Reda with the Tigray forces tweeted on Tuesday.
Since the cease-fire, Ethiopia’s government has prepared for a renewed offensive in Tigray, with public rallies and recruiting drives. Some 3,000 youths gathered on Tuesday in the capital, Addis Ababa, to enlist in the military and denounce Tigray’s former ruling party, which once dominated Ethiopia’s government but this year was declared a terrorist group.
“Our recruits shall bury the enemy and make sure Ethiopia’s sovereignty is respected,” Defense Minister Kenea Yadeta said.
Tigray’s civilians are caught in the middle, largely cut off from the outside world as communications links in the region remain down and supplies run low. Thousands have been killed in the conflict, and even outside the region witnesses say thousands have been detained because of their ethnicity.