The U.N. humanitarian chief warned Thursday that the grave humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia´s embattled Tigray region is deteriorating, with no sign of Eritrean troops withdrawing and alarmingly widespread reports of systematic rape and other sexual violence mainly by men in uniform.
Mark Lowcock told a closed Security Council meeting that the U.N. knows that 4.5 million of Tigray´s nearly 6 million people need humanitarian aid and the government estimates 91% of the population needs emergency food.
He said his office received the first report earlier this week of four displaced people dying from hunger, and Thursday morning he received reports of 150 people in the Ofla district just south of Tigray´s capital Mekelle dying from hunger.
“This should alarm us all,” Lowcock said in his briefing, obtained by The Associated Press. “It is a sign of what lies ahead if more action is not taken. Starvation as a weapon of war is a violation.”
No one knows how many thousands of civilians or combatants have been killed since months of political tensions between Ethiopian President Abiy Ahmed´s government and the Tigray leaders who once dominated Ethiopia´s government exploded in November into war. Eritrea, a longtime Tigray enemy, teamed up with neighboring Ethiopia in the conflict.
Lowcock said humanitarian organizations had hoped things would improve after Abiy announced in late March that Eritrean troops would leave Tigray, but he said neither the U.N. nor the aid groups it works with have seen any proof of withdrawal.