UNITED NATIONS (PA) – UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock on Thursday demanded that Eritrean forces fighting alongside Ethiopian government troops in the besieged province of Tigray leave the country, a demand echoed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations. UN Antonio Guterres, according to his spokesperson.
Lowcock warned that a “campaign of destruction” was underway in Tigray, saying at least 4.5 million people needed help.
His remarks at a closed-door meeting of the UN Security Council, obtained by the Associated Press, for the first time identified Eritrean forces as fighting alongside the government and warned of possible famine “if the food does not pass and that there is no agricultural revival. “
When asked if the Secretary General supports Lowcock’s request for the departure of Eritrean forces, UN spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric replied: “Yes”.
As the Tigray crisis enters its fourth month, Lowcock said, the humanitarian crisis deteriorates and “multiple credible and widely corroborated reports from Tigray … speak of widespread atrocities, involving massacres, rapes and kidnappings. civilians, ongoing fighting in the region. As well as the destruction of crops and essential agricultural machinery.
As fierce fighting continues between Ethiopian and allied forces and those supporting the now fugitive Tigray rulers who once dominated the Ethiopian government, alarm is growing over the fate of Tigray’s 6 million people. No one knows how many thousands of civilians were killed.
Accounts of atrocities against residents of Tigray have been detailed in reports by the Associated Press and Amnesty International. The federal government and regional officials in Tigray both believe each other’s governments are illegitimate after elections disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In demanding the departure of the Eritreans, Lowcock said: “It is now perfectly clear to all, and openly recognized by officials of the Tigray government administration, that the Eritrean Defense Forces are operating throughout Tigray.”
“Countless well-corroborated reports suggest their guilt for the atrocities,” he said. “The Eritrean defense forces must leave Ethiopia and they must not be allowed or allowed to continue their campaign of destruction before doing so.”
Lowcock also pointed out that all forces – “and I include here the Ethiopian Defense Forces, the Eritrean Defense Forces, the Tigrayan forces and the ethnic militias in parts of Ethiopia beyond Tigray” – must, under international humanitarian law, allow access to those in need of assistance, “wherever they are.”
He said many people in rural areas, who made up around 80% of Tigray’s population before the conflict began, remain inaccessible and their situation “is almost certainly worse” than those humanitarian agencies have been able to reach.
“We have identified at least 600,000 people who we know are in need of help but who have not yet received any humanitarian assistance,” Lowcock said. “But we suspect that the actual number of people in need who have not received any help so far is significantly higher.”
With crops and markets disrupted by the conflict, he said “food insecurity is increasing”, citing “anecdotal reports of famine” but saying “the worst is yet preventable”.
Lowcock said aid agencies are stepping up their response and urged donors to contribute to a $ 400 million appeal for Tigray due to be released next week.
The UN humanitarian chief has said Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed told Secretary-General Guterres several days ago – and reiterated World Food Program executive director David Beasley on Thursday – that he was determined to ensure that aid reaches those in need.
“This commitment must now translate into more action on the ground,” said Lowcock, stressing that there is an urgent need to bring communication material into Tigray so that aid organizations can communicate with each other.
Lowcock said Tigray may not be Ethiopia’s only hot spot.
“We are seeing warning signs in other parts of Ethiopia, including a surge of the military on the border between Ethiopia and Sudan and an escalation of the ethnic conflict in the Benishangul-Gumuz region of Ethiopia. where refugees are fleeing to Sudan, ”he said.