Tigray starvation used as weapon of war – UN aid boss

The UN humanitarian chief says the situation in the Ethiopian region of Tigray is worse than previously thought.

Mark Lowcock was speaking to a closed session of the UN Security Council on Tuesday – the BBC has seen a leaked copy of his prepared remarks.

He left no room for ambiguity, saying there was now famine in Tigray – again challenging more cautious assessments of the hunger crisis in northern Ethiopia.

The Ethiopian authorities insist there is no famine in the north of the country.

“Rape is being used systematically to terrorise and brutalise women and girls. Eritrean soldiers are using starvation as a weapon of war. Displaced people are being rounded up, beaten and threatened,” he said

“Aid workers have been killed, interrogated, beaten, blocked from taking aid to the starving and suffering and told not to come back. The Tigray administration have reported deaths from starvation.”

Mr Lowcock suggested the recent assessment of food security in Tigray – which spoke of a “catastrophe” – might be underestimating the gravity of the situation.

He described multiple reports of “young men and teenagers… taken, usually at night, and in some cases executed”.

“It is now clear that Eritrean Defence Forces are responsible for substantial violations of international humanitarian law.”

Despite some success in delivering aid to the region, Mr Lowcock said, “Millions of people in urgent need of help are simply not getting any.

“The response is still not yet coming close to keeping pace with the mounting needs.”

This comes as Ethiopia prepares for national elections. But not in Tigray – where there are unconfirmed reports of a new surge of fighting as Ethiopian and Eritrean troops seek to crush forces loyal to the region’s former government.

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