UN Pressure on Ethiopia Ramps Up as Humanitarian Crisis Deepens
(Bloomberg) -- The Biden administration’s new envoy to the United Nations is seeking to dial up the pressure on countries like Ethiopia and Yemen to end their conflicts as growing humanitarian crises in the midst of a global pandemic push millions to the brink of starvation.
The U.S., which holds the presidency of the Security Council this month, was joined by Ireland and other council members in pressing Ethiopia’s government to end a war that’s been raging in its northern Tigray region, warning that vast numbers of displaced people run the risk of starvation.
“Fighting in the Tigray region over the past four months has driven innocent citizens to the brink. Food stocks are depleted. Acute malnutrition is rising,” Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., said at a council meeting on Thursday. “We cannot allow this situation to deteriorate further.”
The U.S. ambassador has made humanitarian crises a key part of her focus at the UN, but deadlock in the Security Council has impeded meaningful action from Ethiopia to Syria to Myanmar. Diplomats have so far failed to negotiate a council statement calling to end the violence in Ethiopia because of objections from China, Russia and India to a statement drafted by Ireland.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appealed for $5.5 billion in funding to avert catastrophe for 34 million people around the world facing food insecurity.
“I am deeply concerned about the situation in Tigray, Ethiopia, where the harvest season has been disrupted by insecurity and violence, and hundreds of thousands of people could be experiencing hunger,” he told the council.”“In Yemen, five years of conflict have displaced 4 million people across the country. Many Yemenis are facing a death sentence as widespread hunger stalks their nation.”
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered an incursion into Tigray on Nov. 3 after regional forces attacked a federal military camp in the region, the culmination of months of tension between the national government and provincial authorities. While Abiy declared victory on Nov. 28, fighting has persisted and UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock told the Security Council earlier this month there was a growing risk of famine.
“As we speak, and notwithstanding commitments made by the Ethiopian government, humanitarian access remains inadequate compared to the urgent, large-scale needs that are there,” Ireland’s Foreign Minister Simon Coveney told the council. “Comprehensive assessment missions are not yet being permitted.”
The Ethiopian government has so far provided food aid to 4.1 million beneficiaries and puts the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance at 2.5 million, according to an internal official memorandum dated March 8 that was seen by Bloomberg.
The UN estimates that 4.5 million people in Tigray need food, and aid workers say the humanitarian needs in the area remain immense.
“First-round food distributions have reached many people, but more food, particularly nutritious food, is urgently needed,” said Eileen Morris, who heads an informal group of international humanitarian non-governmental organizations working in Tigray. “There are still many people who have multiple unmet needs for blankets, mattresses, water and food, and we urgently need more funding.”
Aid workers have described sanitary conditions at camps for internally displaced people as appalling, with hundreds of thousands of women and children sleeping on the ground with no blankets.
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