The United Nations (UN) has warned that close to 100,000 Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia’s conflict-ridden region of Tigray face severe food shortages.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) appealed on Tuesday to Ethiopian authorities for access to the 96,000 refugees sheltering in camps in Tigray.
Babar Baloch, spokesman for the UNHCR, told a Geneva news briefing that UN authorities had “lost access and contact with the refugees since last month,” when transport links and communications to Tigray were severed.
“We are asking for urgent access to these refugee camps,” the UN official said. “The camps will have now run out of food supplies — making hunger and malnutrition a real danger, a warning we have been issuing since the conflict began nearly a month ago.”
Wednesday marks a month since Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered a military offensive in Tigray, in response to a deadly attack on an army base that killed at least 54 people from the ethnic Amhara group in the Oromia region.
Abiy accused the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) of having staged the attack.
The armed conflict has so far killed thousands of people and displaced tens of thousands into neighboring Sudan.
Fighting continues even though government forces declared victory after capturing the Tigrayan regional capital over the weekend.
Though outnumbered and expelled from the regional capital, the Tigray rebels can exploit their mountainous terrain and long borders with Sudan and Eritrea to wage an insurgency.
Citing a UN aid worker in touch with people in Tigray, Reuters said large areas still remained outside federal control and fighting was still taking place on several fronts.
Experts warned on Tuesday that the conflict might be transforming into a guerrilla conflict in the region.
“There are skirmishes continuing in many parts of Tigray and we are seeing the hallmarks of the beginning of an insurgency,” Horn of Africa expert Rashid Abdi told an online forum.
“The terrain, geography and history suggest this will be a long, drawn-out insurgency,” he warned.
TPLF-linked politician surrenders: Ethiopia
Meanwhile, the Ethiopian government said Keria Ibrahim, a senior politician linked to the TPLF, had surrendered.
Ibrahim had been the speaker of the House of Federation, a national body dealing with constitutional matters, until she resigned in June over the postponement of national elections due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The TPLF dominated Ethiopian politics for nearly three decades before Abiy took office in 2018.