The United Nations’s humanitarian chief warned that famine is imminent in Ethiopia’s Tigray region as intense fighting has decimated the area.
“We are hearing of starvation-related deaths already,” Mark Lowcock said in a statement Friday to The Associated Press.
“People need to wake up,” Lowcock said. “The international community needs to really step up, including through the provision of money.”
The warning comes amid political tensions and armed clashes between Ethiopian President Abiy Ahmed’s government and the Tigray leaders who he ousted on his way to power. Eritrea, which has long fought with the Tigray, has joined Ahmed’s offensive.
“There is now a risk of a loss of life running into the hundreds of thousands or worse,” Lowcock said.
The United Nations has said it has helped about 2 million people in recent months in government-controlled areas in northern Ethiopia, but about 1 million people in areas that Tigray forces control remain without needed supplies.
“The access for aid workers is not there because of what men with guns and bombs are doing and what their political masters are telling them to do,” Lowcock said.