The number of people requiring food aid in war-torn northern Ethiopia rose to more than nine million, The UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) said on Friday.
Tomson Phiri, the agency’s spokesperson, told journalists in Geneva: “Today, 9.4 million people are living their worst nightmare.”
He added that of the people across northern Ethiopia in need of assistance, more than 80% – 7.8 million – “are behind battle lines”.
The largest jump in numbers has occurred in Amhara region with 3.7 million people now in urgent need of humanitarian aid.
Screening data from all three regions in Northern Ethiopia has shown malnutrition rates of between 16 and 28% for children. Even more alarming, up to 50% of pregnant and breastfeeding women screened in Amhara and Tigray were also found to be malnourished.
According to the WFP spokesperson, a convoy loaded with 2,200 metric tons of life-saving food is expected to arrive in Mekele (in Tigray) in the coming days; 35 trucks have arrived so far and more vehicles loaded with food from Kombolcha are being sent into Southern Tigray today.
Corridors into Tigray had been closed due to the recent Tigrayan advances into Afar and Amhara, as well as severe disruptions linked to federal government approvals.
Mr. Phiri pointed out that this has meant that less than a third of the supplies needed have entered the region since mid-July.
He added that one million litres of fuel is also needed to be able to reach the 7.8 million people behind battle lines.
While WFP has reached 180,000 people in Tigray in this current round, this amounts to just seven percent of the 2.5 million WFP needs to reach, the spokesperson highlighted.
“A famine has not been declared in Ethiopia but…we are running out of words really to capture exactly the situation that is unfolding before our eyes, but… it is the textbook definition of a humanitarian crisis,” he said.
Earlier this week WFP delivered food to over 10,000 people in the Amhara towns of Dessie and Kombolcha. These were the first distributions to happen there since they were taken over by Tigray forces almost a month ago. WFP was only granted full access to its warehouses in the region last week.
To date, WFP has reached more than 3.2 million people with emergency food and nutrition assistance across northern Ethiopia, including 875,000 vulnerable mothers and children with nutritionally fortified food.
In Amhara, WFP has reached more than 220,000 people with food and nutrition assistance and is scaling up to reach 650,000 people. In Afar, WFP has distributed food to 124,000 people out of its targeted 534,000.
Mr. Phiri called for urgent action to be taken to help WFP deliver assistance over the next six months.
At least US$316 million in funding is required for Northern Ethiopia, with an unprecedented US$579 million to save and change the lives of 12 million people across the country over the next six months. (Source: UN News)