On Friday, top United Nations experts told the Security Council that more than 400,000 people in Ethiopia’s Tigray area were now facing hunger, and that there was a potential of additional hostilities in the region despite the federal government’s unilateral ceasefire.
The Security Council had its first public meeting since violence broke out in November between government forces backed by Eritrean troops and TPLF insurgents from Tigray’s former ruling party.
The humanitarian situation in Tigray has “worsened considerably” in recent weeks, according to Acting UN Aid Chief Ramesh Rajasingham, with an increase of about 50,000 people now suffering from starvation.
“More than 400,000 people are estimated to have died of starvation, with another 1.8 million on the verge of starvation. Some speculate that the figures are significantly higher. 33,000 children are severely malnourished, according to the UNICEF “he stated.
On Monday, the Ethiopian government announced a unilateral ceasefire, which the TPLF condemned as a farce. There are reports of ongoing skirmishes in several areas as international pressure mounts on all sides to back off.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said Ethiopia’s government must demonstrate “it truly intends to use the ceasefire to address the humanitarian catastrophe,” warning that any denial of aid access is “not an indication of a humanitarian ceasefire, but of a siege.”
Ethiopia’s U.N. Ambassador Taye Atske Selassie Amde told reporters after he addressed the council that the purpose of the ceasefire “is not to make a siege, it is to save lives.”
Amde questioned the need for the public Security Council meeting, telling the body the ceasefire was declared to improve aid access and “should have encouraged our friends to give support and de-escalate the unhelpful pressure.” He said the government hoped the ceasefire could also spark dialogue.
Thomas-Greenfield urged the parties to the conflict to “seize this moment,” warning that if they failed there could be devastating consequences for Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa.
U.N. political and peacebuilding affairs chief Rosemary DiCarlo said Eritrean forces had withdrawn to areas adjacent to the border and that forces from the neighboring region of Amhara remained in areas of western Tigray that they had seized.
“In short, there is a risk of more clashes and a rapid worsening in the security situation,” she warned the council, urging the TPLF to support the ceasefire and for Eritrean forces to withdraw completely.
While Russia and China did not oppose to the Security Council’s public discussion on Tigray on Friday, they made it plain that the dispute is an Ethiopian internal matter. “We feel that interference by the Security Council in settling it is harmful,” Russia’s UN Ambassador said.
Along with the United States, France, and the United Kingdom, Russia and China have veto power on the council.