Some 33,000 severely malnourished children in Ethiopia’s Tigray region are at high risk of death, the UN children’s agency UNICEF has warned.
Tigray has been devastated by clashes between government forces and rebels, with 1.7 million people displaced since the conflict began in November 2020.
A UN-backed study released Thursday found that 353,000 people in the region were living in a “severe crisis.”
The Ethiopian government questions the finding and says aid is coming.
According to Thursday’s assessment, the food situation in the region has reached the level of a “catastrophe”, which he defines as hunger and death that affect small groups of people spread over large areas.
UNICEF is calling for humanitarian access to isolated areas in Tigray.
“Although this figure of 353,000 does not reach the necessary threshold [20% of surveyed population] to trigger a formal declaration of famine, let’s not play with terminology when people are dying, “UNICEF spokesman James Elder said Friday.
About 33,000 are young children and the babies are dangerously close to illness and potential death from malnutrition, UNICEF says. Another two million people are on the brink of a “severe crisis.”
Ethiopia has rejected the claim of UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock that there is famine in northern parts of the country.
He insists that humanitarian access is expanding as order is restored throughout the region.
The United States and the European Union have jointly urged all parties to the conflict to agree to a ceasefire to allow aid to reach millions of people in dire need and to prevent large-scale famine.
Meanwhile, the Ethiopian government says that Eritrean troops that have been involved in the conflict have begun to withdraw from the Tigray region after months of international pressure asking them to leave the area.