‘Aid could run out amid Ethiopia conflict’

Vital aid supplies to hundreds of thousands of people in northern Ethiopia are at risk because of the conflict there, a top UN official said.

“Shortages of basic commodities such as flour and fuel are being reported,” Catherine Sozi, UN country director in Ethiopia, told the BBC.

Fighting in Tigray between the federal government and a regional force broke out eight days ago.

Hundreds have reportedly been killed as fears of an escalating conflict grow.

Long-standing tension between Ethiopia’s federal government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which controls Tigray, the country’s northernmost state, boiled over into military clashes last week.

The Ethiopian government has also carried out airstrikes on military targets in Tigray.

As a result of the fighting at least 7,000 civilians have crossed the border into Sudan. They fled either the fighting itself or the fear of attack and there are concerns that many more have been forced from their homes but are still living within Tigray.

Al Sir Khalid, a commissioner for refugees in Sudan’s Kassala state, told the BBC’s Focus on Africa programme that some of those fleeing had walked for two or three days to escape “bombardment”, and that they included Ethiopian soldiers.

The UN supplies at least 600,000 people in Tigray with food relief on a regular basis and “assistance… is bound to be interrupted if the supplies are not restocked and if movement is not permitted”, Dr Sozi told the BBC’s Newsday programme.

Given that banks are closed in Tigray, she also warned of cash shortages affecting people’s ability to buy food.

But the UN is committed to staying “as long as our security can be reassured… we will go on as long as stocks are not exhausted”.

Getting information from the region is hard as roads have been blocked, the internet is down and telephone lines have been cut.

But in a tweet on Thursday, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said his government was providing assistance in the areas of Tigray controlled by the federal army. This could not be independently verified.

Both the federal government and Tigrayan authorities are scaling up efforts to mobilise resources indicating that the conflict may go on for some time, the BBC’s KalkidanYibeltal reports from the capital, Addis Ababa. -BBC

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