GENEVA - The World Food Program warns Ethiopia is on the edge of a humanitarian disaster as escalating fighting in the north is preventing the delivery of needed food from reaching millions of people in battle-scarred Tigray province.
The last time a food convoy was able to reach Tigray's capital, Mekelle, was mid-December. Millions of acutely hungry people in this war-torn province have been deprived of food since then.
In a blunt warning to the warring parties and international community, World Food Program spokesman Tomson Phiri says his agency's humanitarian operation in northern Ethiopia is about to grind to a halt. He says intense fighting in the region is blocking the passage of fuel and food.
"Stocks of nutritionally fortified food for the treatment of malnourished children and women are now exhausted, and the last of WFP's cereals, pulses and oil will be distributed next week,' said Phiri. 'Because of fighting, food distributions are at an all-time low. WFP aid workers on the ground tell me that warehouses are completely empty."
FILE - Villagers return from a market to Yechila town in south central Tigray walking past scores of burned vehicles, in Tigray, Ethiopia, July 10, 2021.
Fighting erupted between Ethiopian government troops and Tigrayan forces in November 2020. Conditions have seriously deteriorated since then. The World Food Program says 9.4 million people in northern Ethiopia now require humanitarian food aid, an increase of 2.7 million from just four months ago.
In Tigray alone, the United Nations says 5.2 million people depend on international assistance to survive. It says 400,000 people are living in famine-like conditions and another 2 million are on the verge of famine.
The WFP aims to provide food aid for 2.1 million people in Tigray and for an additional 1.1 million people in the Amhara and Afar regions. However, money is in short supply. The U.N. food agency is urgently appealing for $337 million to carry out its emergency food assistance program in Northern Ethiopia over the next six months.