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War-Torn Ethiopian Region Still Wracked by Fighting, UN Says

Jan 08, 2021
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(Bloomberg) — Ethiopia’s northern Tigray remains unstable as fighting continues in several areas, including the outskirts of the regional capital, Mekelle, according to the United Nations.

More than 4.5 million people in the war-torn region need emergency food assistance, the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a report compiled after two missions to the province last month. A total of 2.2 million people have been displaced since the conflict erupted in early November, more than twice the number prior to the violence, it said.

The missions marked the first time humanitarian officials have gained access to the region since the conflict erupted in November. Members were able to assess only urban areas because of continuing insecurity in outlying districts and bureaucratic hurdles.

“Supplies are very limited and only locally produced food items are available and at increasing prices,” the UN said in the report. “Both assessment missions have witnessed a dire humanitarian situation with poor access to services and limited livelihoods.”

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed declared war against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front after blaming the region’s leaders for an attack on a federal army base. Although the government announced victory on Nov. 28 when federal forces took Mekelle, fighting continues in the countryside. Access for journalists and independent analysts remains constrained, making it impossible to verify events.

Sebhat Nega, a founding member of the TPLF, has been captured, said Jeylan Abdi, a spokesperson for the federal police. The whereabouts of its leader, Debretsion Gebremichael, and many other key party and military officials remains unknown.

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Eritrean troops have also been involved in the fighting, government denials notwithstanding, looting businesses and abducting refugees, according to aid workers and diplomats briefed on the situation. While life in the southern towns of Alamata and Mehoni as well as Mekelle was “gradually returning to normalcy,” there is concern about the population’s access to health care, the UN body said.

Regional facilities have been looted and vandalized, while those in the major cities are only partially functional amid a lack of equipment and workers, it said.

Authorities in the province arrested nine members of the TPLF on Thursday, though none are thought to be senior officials, state media reported.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.




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