HUMANITARIAN crisis is unfolding in Ethiopia as conflict spreads beyond the Tigray region, the chief of the United Nations warned on Thursday.
Secretary-general Antonio Guterres told the UN security council: “Inflammatory rhetoric and ethnic profiling are tearing apart the social fabric of the country.
“All parties must immediately end hostilities without preconditions and seize that opportunity to negotiate a lasting ceasefire.”
Mr Guterres said that more than two million people had been displaced from their homes and that millions more were in immediate need of life-saving humanitarian assistance, including food, water, shelter and healthcare.
“The human price of this war is mounting by the day,” he said. “At least 400,000 people are living in famine-like conditions.”
He also criticised the de facto humanitarian blockade of the Tigray region and its six million residents, warning that food warehouses were being left empty.
He spoke as Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) leader Debretsion Gebremichael expressed the group’s commitment to a negotiated end to the nine-month war that has killed thousands and displaced hundreds of thousands more.
In a letter to Mr Guterres, Mr Gebremichael declared that the group wants an impartial mediator, among other conditions, and warned that the African Union “cannot provide any solution to the war,” which he said it “endorsed” early in the fighting.
“The aim is to exterminate Tigrayans by starving them to death,” Mr Gebremichael said.
China, a permanent security council member, has expressed its opposition to external interference in Ethiopia’s affairs and, along with Russia, warned that sanctions by individual countries would only worsen the conflict.
This week, the United States imposed a sanction against the chief of staff of Eritrea’s defence forces until they remove soldiers from the region.
But at Thursday’s meeting, the US expressed concern that large numbers of people would starve to death if food shortages continue.
Ethiopia’s ambassador to the UN Taye Atske Selassie told the meeting that the country was improving the process for the delivery of aid.
“The TPLF is standing between Ethiopia and peace,” he claimed, accusing it of being “bent on destabilising” the country.
“We are open to working with all well-intentioned partners,” he added.
Due to members’ conflicting views, it is unlikely that the security council will be able to take significant action on the crisis.