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US doubles aid in Ethiopia's Tigray amid famine fears

The aid aims to assist civilians in Tigray [Getty]

Date of publication: 8 April, 2021

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Some $152 million in US aid will be given to prevent potential famine in Ethiopia's conflict-hit Tigray region, Washington said on Thursday.
The United States on Thursday said it was providing another $152 million to prevent potential famine in Ethiopia's conflict-hit Tigray region as it urged unhindered access.

The US Agency for International Development said the funding brought the total US contribution for Tigray to $305 million and that the contributions, along with a US team on the ground, would support food, water, shelter and medical care to more than three million people.

The agency urged other donors to step up contributions "immediately," pointing to UN warnings that "there could be a risk of famine."

"The United States remains deeply concerned about the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Tigray and the lack of sufficient humanitarian funding to address it," it said in a statement.

"Large-scale assistance is urgently needed to prevent conditions in Tigray from worsening."

State Department spokesman Ned Price called for "full and unhindered access" to Tigray.

"It is absolutely critical for the humanitarian community to not only scale up its response but also to ensure that that humanitarian assistance is reaching the people in need," Price told reporters.

Ethiopia is a longstanding ally of the United States but Washington has been increasingly alarmed since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed launched a military offensive in Tigray in November.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has spoken of "ethnic cleansing" in Tigray, where Eritrean troops also intervened to fight the local ruling party.

Jake Sullivan, the national security advisor, pushed for expanded humanitarian access in a telephone call with Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen.

Sullivan also pressed on the promised departure of the Eritrean troops and sought an investigation into atrocities, spokeswoman Emily Horne said.

Abiy, winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, faces mounting pressure to end fighting in which both Eritrean and Ethiopian troops stand accused of abuses including mass killings and rapes. 

Abiy sent troops into Tigray on November 4 after blaming the region's once-dominant ruling party, the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), for attacks on army camps. 

For months both Addis Ababa and Asmara denied Eritrean troops were in Tigray, contradicting accounts from residents, aid workers, diplomats and even some Ethiopian civilian and military officials. 

Massacres

Ethiopia and Eritrea fought a border war beginning in 1998 that left tens of thousands dead and resulted in a two-decade stalemate. 

Abiy won his Nobel in large part for initiating a surprise rapprochement with Isaias after taking office in 2018, but Eritrea and the TPLF remained bitter enemies.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have accused Eritrean troops of killing hundreds of Tigrayans in a November massacre in the town of Axum. 

AFP has separately documented a massacre allegedly carried out by Eritrean troops in the town of Dengolat, also in November. 

Abiy claimed victory in Tigray in late November after Ethiopian troops took Mekele, but TPLF leaders remain on the run and fighting continues.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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