U.N. warns of worsening famine in Ethiopia

Top U.N. officials warned the Security Council on Friday (July 2) that more than 400,000 people in Ethiopia's Tigray region were now in famine, and that there was a risk of more clashes in the region despite a unilateral ceasefire by the federal government.

Acting U.N. aid chief Ramesh Rajasingham told the council that the humanitarian situation in Tigray had "worsened dramatically" in recent weeks

"One of the most distressing trends is an alarming rise in food insecurity and hunger due to conflict. More than 400,000 people are estimated to have crossed the threshold into famine and another 1.8 million people are on the brink of famine. Some are suggesting that the numbers are even higher. Thirty-three thousand children are severely malnourished."

The Security Council held its first public meeting since fighting broke out in November between government forces, backed by troops from neighboring Eritrea, and Tigray People’s Liberation Front fighters with the northern region’s former ruling party.

Food aid destined for Tigray was held for four days at a checkpoint controlled by government-allied Amhara regional forces last weekend.

Ethiopia on Friday (July 2) denied blocking the humanitarian aid, amid accusations it is using hunger as a weapon.

Images obtained by Reuters on Friday also show a bridge used to deliver supplies into Tigray region destroyed.

The pictures, taken by Planet Labs, visually confirm UN ground reporting, of the Amba Bridge over Tezeke River being damaged.

The World Food Program raised the alarm at the destruction of two major bridges leading into Tigray from Gondar on Thursday (July 1).

The Ethiopian government declared a unilateral ceasefire on Monday, which the TPLF dismissed as a joke.

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