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UN warns it will imminently ‘run out of food’ in Ethiopia refugee camps

The head of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has warned the agency will “run out of food” for refugee camps in Ethiopia’s conflict-ravaged Tigray region as early as Friday.

Around 24,000 refugees are trapped in two camps in the Ethiopian region, where they are cut off from humanitarian aid.

Some 170 trucks carrying food and other supplies are “stuck” in the neighbouring Afar region and “must be allowed to move NOW,” David Beasley tweeted on Tuesday.

WFP runs out of food in #Tigray this Friday. It takes 100 trucks per day to reach everyone we are aiming to feed. 170 trucks bound for Tigray with food and other supplies are stuck right now in Afar and can’t leave. These trucks must be allowed to move NOW. People are starving.

— David Beasley (@WFPChief) July 27, 2021

He said 100 such trucks are needed per day in Tigray, adding: “People are starving.”

Shortly after his statement, Ethiopia’s government blamed the aid delivery problem on Tigray forces’ “provocations” in the Afar region.

The UN has said Afar has the only remaining route into Tigray. A WFP convoy trying to use that route was attacked on 18 July.

Fighting between armed groups has escalated in and around the Mai Aini and Adi Harush camps, with two refugees killed this month, according to the UN refugee agency.

“The last food distribution to the two refugee camps was done during the month of June, the ration supplies then were only enough for 30 days,” Babar Baloch, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told a Geneva news briefing on Tuesday.

“There is a real danger of hunger among these refugees if supplies do not resume as they may have already run out of food supplies that were given to them.”

A woman carries an infant as she queues in line for food

Image:
Fighting between armed groups has escalated in and around the Mai Aini and Adi Harush camps

Clean drinking water is also running out, he added.

Conflict erupted between the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) in November.

Three weeks later, the government seized control of the region’s capital, Mekelle, and declared a unilateral cease-fire, saying it was in part on humanitarian grounds while its forces retreated from Tigray.

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Ceasefire declared in Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict

TPLF forces then retook the regional capital and most of Tigray, and called the cease-fire a “sick joke” while vowing to secure the region and chase “enemies” over its borders.

Ethiopia’s government has since been preparing for a renewed offensive in Tigray.

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