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UN agency raises concern over access for food deliveries in Ethiopia's Tigray region

By Otiato Opali in Nairobi, Kenya | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2021-06-11 17:15

The United Nation's World Food Program on Thursday said alarming new data has confirmed the magnitude of the hunger emergency gripping Ethiopia's Tigray region, where at least 4 million people face severe hunger and 350,000 of them are facing famine.

"The United Nations World Food Program has swiftly mounted an emergency food assistance operation deploying more than 180 staff and increasing food distributions to reach 1.4 million people, yet that is barely half the number we should be reaching. Other agencies are also struggling to reach many of the rest of Tigray's hungry," WFP said in a statement.

"The brutal reality for our staff in Tigray is for every family we reach with life-saving food, there are countless more, especially in rural areas, whom we cannot reach. We have appealed for humanitarian access but are still being blocked by armed groups."

According to WFP, the ability of people in Tigray to access vital services and for the UN agency to reach them with food assistance is essential to avoid a catastrophe. Access must be extended well beyond major cities to reach people in desperate need wherever they may be, with adequate assistance and without delay.

"Violence and conflict are allowing hunger to tighten its grip on millions of Tigrayans who have been forced to flee their homes. Our teams observed that in 53 villages they visited, 50 percent of mothers and almost a quarter of children they've been screening are malnourished. Millions of people urgently need food. Without it, many of them will die," WFP said.

The agency added three things are needed to prevent hunger from claiming millions of lives in Tigray: a ceasefire, unimpeded access for WFP and partners to all areas and the money to expand their operations to meet the growing numbers of people who desperately need emergency food assistance.

In November, Ethiopia's government launched an offensive to oust the Tigray region's then-ruling party, the Tigray People's Liberation Front. The party had a massive fallout with Abiy Ahmed, Ethiopia's prime minister, over political changes to the country's ethnically based federal system. Ahmed also said TPLF's capture of federal military bases in Tigray was a catalyst for the invasion.

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