Calls grow for Ethiopia to declare ceasefire in Tigray to allow aid

War has disrupted humanitarian deliveries to region where millions of people are facing famine

Pressure is mounting on Ethiopia to declare a ceasefire in the northern province of Tigray to allow humanitarian organisations to reach millions of people who face famine.

The war in Tigray has disrupted harvests and led to huge problems for the delivery of aid to communities, particularly in rural areas. More than 2 million people are thought to have been displaced by the conflict.

The UK has called for “a cessation of hostilities by all conflict parties and unfettered humanitarian access so that aid can flow and famine can be averted”.

The US embassy in Addis Ababa tweeted on Wednesday: “We agree with the UK that the humanitarian situation in #Tigray is rapidly deteriorating. A break in the fighting NOW, coupled with unfettered humanitarian access, will immediately help avert the risk of famine.”

Many European countries backed the call. The Finnish foreign minister, Pekka Haavisto, said he had discussed the “alarming humanitarian situation in Tigray” with the UN secretary general, António Guterres, and called for humanitarian workers to be protected and humanitarian access guaranteed.

The UN said earlier this week that more than 90% of people in Tigray needed emergency food aid, as appealed for $203m (£140m) to scale up its response.

The World Food Programme said it was alarmed at how the conflict had increased already high levels of hunger in Tigray. “A total of 5.2 million people, equivalent to 91% of Tigray’s population, need emergency food assistance due to the conflict,” the WFP spokesperson, Tomson Phiri, said in Geneva.

The conflict began in November when government forces moved to oust the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) from power in the province after it launched surprise attacks on key federal military bases.

Though the Ethiopian army, pro-government militia and troops sent by neighbouring Eritrea were initially victorious, the conflict has become a grinding insurgency marked by atrocities including many massacres of civilians and systematic sexual violence.

Internal NGO assessments seen by the Guardian describe the widespread destruction of agricultural equipment, seed stocks and infrastructure as well as various deliberate attempts by Ethiopian and Eritrean troops to delay convoys. There are also reports of the theft of food and other essential materials. Fighting means many areas where the need is greatest are cut off.

The US has already imposed some sanctions and signalled further restrictions on economic and security assistance to Ethiopia.

Joe Biden called on the parties to the conflict in Tigray to declare and adhere to a ceasefire last week.

“Earlier this week, the UN office of humanitarian affairs warned that Ethiopia could experience its first famine since the 1980s because of this protracted conflict. All parties, in particular the Ethiopian and Eritrean forces, must allow immediate, unimpeded humanitarian access to the region in order to prevent widespread famine,” the US president said in a statement.

Ethiopian officials have rejected the calls so far, and on Sunday people packed a stadium in Addis Ababa for a pro-government rally, chanting against US sanctions and waving posters accusing foreign powers of undermining the country’s sovereignty.

Contributor

Jason Burke Africa correspondent

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Could Tigray conflict turn Ethiopia into a 'Libya of east Africa'?
Fighting in north-west region threatens to destabilise country and draw in foreign powers

Jason Burke Africa correspondent

17, Nov, 2020 @5:00 AM

Article image
Hundreds died in Axum massacre during Tigray war, says Amnesty
Group says soldiers killed hundreds of unarmed civilians in northern Ethiopian city

Jason Burke Africa correspondent

26, Feb, 2021 @11:41 AM

Article image
Ethiopia is fighting 'difficult and tiresome' guerrilla war in Tigray, says PM
Abiy Ahmed had previously declared operations against insurgents a rapid and decisive success

Jason Burke

04, Apr, 2021 @8:13 PM

Article image
Eritrean soldiers killed 19 civilians in latest Tigray atrocity, locals claim
Killings took place near Ethiopia’s Abuna Yemata church on 8 May, according to multiple testimonies

Jason Burke

01, Jun, 2021 @4:40 PM

Article image
Ethiopia: reports of heavy casualties in fighting in Tigray
Country’s prime minister sent in federal troops and aircraft last week in major escalation

Jason Burke Africa correspondent

08, Nov, 2020 @5:07 PM

Article image
Ethiopia: 1,900 people killed in massacres in Tigray identified
List compiled by researchers of victims of mass killings includes infants and people in their 90s

Jason Burke Africa correspondent

02, Apr, 2021 @2:00 AM

Article image
Ethiopia rejects calls for ceasefire in Tigray, claiming victory is near
UN says pause in fight against rebels would enable aid to reach province where 90% of people risk starvation

Jason Burke Africa correspondent

03, Jun, 2021 @5:19 PM

Article image
Tigray rebels vow to drive out ‘enemies’ despite ceasefire declaration
Celebrations on streets of Mekelle after soldiers and officials appointed by Ethiopian government flee city

Emmanuel Akinwotu West Africa correspondent and Lizzy Davies

29, Jun, 2021 @10:30 AM

Article image
Ethiopia-Turkey pact fuels speculation about drone use in Tigray war
Reports say Ethiopia wants to buy Bayraktar TB2 drones after military cooperation agreement was signed with Ankara

Dan Sabbagh

04, Nov, 2021 @2:49 PM

Article image
Ethiopia-Tigray war: who is fighting and what has been the toll?
Reports have emerged of atrocities committed by all sides, and millions of people have been displaced

Jason Burke and Dan Sabbagh

05, Nov, 2021 @1:12 PM