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Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia 'run out of food'

BBC News logo BBC News 01/12/2020
a pot with food in it: The UN says concerns are growing "by the hour" for the Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia © AFP The UN says concerns are growing "by the hour" for the Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia

Thousands of Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia's conflict-hit northern region of Tigray have run out of food, the UN's refugee agency, UNHCR, has said.

It appealed for urgent access to the region to provide emergency assistance.

Communications and aid access have been blocked since the start of the conflict between the federal government fighters loyal to Tigray leaders a month ago.

Nearly 100,000 Eritrean refugees are in Tigray. They fled political persecution and compulsory military service.

A lot of focus has been on the tens of thousands who have fled to Sudan from Tigray during the fighting, but there is also concern about these Eritreans.

The UNHCR also said it was "alarmed" at unconfirmed reports of attacks and abductions and at the refugee camps.

Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced on Sunday that the military offensive in Tigray had ended after federal forces took control of Tigray's capital, Mekelle.

But Debretsion Gebremichael, who leads the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), said fighting still continues and his forces have made some gains.

'Hunger a real danger'

Concerns about the state of the Eritrean refugees are growing by the hour, the UNHCR said in a briefing in Geneva.

"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.

"Our extreme worry is that we hear about attacks, the fighting near the camps, we hear about abductions and forced removals, so this is very important for us to have that access to go and see what has happened over there," its spokesman Babar Baloch told journalists.

The UNHCR also called for the protection of all civilians.

Mr Abiy told parliament on Monday that not a single civilian had been killed since the government launched its offensive in early November.

The government has also said it would open up a humanitarian corridor.

map © BBC

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