UN Security Council to Discuss Cease-fire, Hunger in Ethiopia’s Tigray

The U.N. Security Council is set to hold its first public discussion of the situation in Ethiopia’s Tigray region on Friday, as humanitarian groups attempt to resume and expand aid deliveries to millions of people in dire need in the embattled area.The 15-nation Security Council will meet later Friday (7pm GMT) to be briefed on developments by the U.N.’s department of political and peacebuilding affairs and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Ethiopia’s envoy is also expected to participate in the meeting.On Monday, the Ethiopian government announced an immediate, unilateral cease-fire, after nearly eight months of fighting with Tigrayan forces. Tigrayan forces reclaimed control of Mekelle after Ethiopian government forces withdrew.The French ambassador to the United Nations Nicolas de Riviere talks to reporters before a Security Council meeting at U.N. headquarters, Jan. 3, 2020.“It’s a significant change, so it may be the beginning of a different phase,” said France’s U.N. Ambassador Nicolas de Riviere, who is president of the council this month.The U.N. said following the truce that an unpredictable calm had taken hold in major towns including the regional capital Mekelle, as well as Adigrat, Adwa, Axum and Shire. There were unconfirmed reports of clashes in the southern and northwestern zones. “Electricity and telecommunications are still cut off throughout the region,” Eri Kaneko, a U.N. spokesperson, told reporters on Thursday. “There are no flights or road transportation in or out of the region.”Getting aid inMeanwhile, aid organizations trying to reach millions of people in dire need of food aid have had their operations blocked or halted by fighting and armed actors who have not allowed them to pass. The U.N. said two critical bridges over the Tekeze river connecting the Western Zone and the rest of Tigray were destroyed on Thursday and were unusable.In a situation report Friday, the U.N. humanitarian office said its partners “are currently assessing the implications of recent events with the view of resuming relief operations as soon as possible, particularly in hard-to-reach areas that would have become more accessible.”Some six million people live in the Tigray region. The United Nations says more than five million of them are in need of emergency food assistance, and another 350,000 are coping with faminelike conditions after of eight months of fighting.On Tuesday, USAID official Sarah Charles told U.S. lawmakers that the number of people in faminelike conditions is closer to one million, and warned that without scaled-up aid deliveries, “we will likely see widespread famine in Ethiopia this year.” Despite the continuing challenges, some limited assistance has gotten through.The U.N. said as of June 22 it had reached about 3.7 million people in Tigray with food aid, out of a targeted 5.2 million.   For its part, the World Food Program said Friday it has resumed operations in Tigray after suspending them due to fighting on June 24. On Thursday the food agency reached 13,000 displaced people in two areas, many of whom are suffering from malnutrition. WFP hopes to reach 30,000 more people in northwest Tigray in the coming two days.“We have the teams on ground, trucks loaded and ready to go to meet the catastrophic food needs in the region,” said Tommy Thompson, WFP’s Emergency Coordinator in Mekelle. “What we need now is free, unfettered access and secure passage guaranteed by all parties to the conflict so we can deliver food safely.”Overall, WFP says it is targeting 2.1 million people with emergency food assistance in the northwestern and southern zones of Tigray. So far aid has reached 1.7 million people in two rounds of deliveries.The United Nations has appealed for $854 million to assist 5.2 million people until the end of this year, with almost $200 million needed before the end of July.Fighting between the Ethiopian federal government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) broke out in November, leaving thousands of civilians dead and forcing more than 2 million people from their homes.Troops from Eritrea, Ethiopia’s neighbor to the north, and Amhara, a neighboring region to the south of Tigray, also entered the conflict in support of the Ethiopian government.