Hundreds of people have been killed and thousands have fled across Ethiopia’s northern border into neighbouring Sudan as fighting between federal troops and local forces continues in Tigray region.

An Ethiopian child who fled war in Tigray region queues for wet food ration on the Sudan-Ethiopia border in al Qadarif state, Sudan November 19, 2020.
An Ethiopian child who fled war in Tigray region queues for wet food ration on the Sudan-Ethiopia border in al Qadarif state, Sudan November 19, 2020. (Reuters)

The UN children's agency has said that the outbreak of conflict in Ethiopia's Tigray region has left some 2.3 million children in urgent need of assistance and thousands more at risk in refugee camps.

Tigray has been rocked by bloody fighting since November 4, when Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced the launch of military operations against the regional government that had objected to the postponement of country’s national election, once set for August, because of the pandemic, and the extension of Abiy’s time in office.

"Inside the Tigray region, restricted access and the ongoing communication blackout have left an estimated 2.3 million children in need of humanitarian assistance and out of reach," UNICEF executive director Henrietta Fore said on Friday.

The agency estimates that "some 12,000 children – some of them without parents or relatives – are among those sheltering in camps and registration centres and are at risk".

READ MORE: Ethiopia’s PM vows ‘final and crucial’ offensive in Tigray

Worsening humanitarian crisis

In September, people in Tigray voted in an election, defying the federal government and increasing tensions over a region of some 5 million people that despite its small share of Ethiopia's population of 110 million has had outsize influence. 

The move was a dramatic escalation of a long-running feud between the federal government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, which dominated Ethiopian politics for nearly three decades before Abiy took office in 2018

Hundreds of people have been killed in the fighting, and thousands have fled across Ethiopia's northern border into neighbouring Sudan.

Many of the makeshift camps set up in Sudan are overcrowded and refugees have been struggling with unsanitary conditions, limited access to water, and food.

READ MORE: Civilians go hungry in Ethiopia’s Tigray as fighting rages on

Urgent assistance

The UN agency said it has sought to provide urgent assistance and life-saving support for children living in "extremely harsh" conditions in the camps.

Fore urged all parties to the conflict to allow humanitarian access, and refrain from using explosives in densely populated areas.

"Every effort should be made to keep children out of harm's way, and to ensure that they are protected from recruitment and use in the conflict," she said.

READ MORE: Ethiopia’s Abiy administration blames rebels for serious crimes in Tigray

Source: AFP