I am alarmed by the escalating risk for widespread atrocities and violence against civilians in Northern Ethiopia, as well as recent attacks by the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) and Eritrean Defense Forces (EDF) in the city of Shire. The Tigray Defense Front’s (TDF) provocative actions in the Amhara region are only deepening the acute threat to civilians.
For nearly two years, civilians have overwhelmingly borne the costs of this conflict. The collapse of a truce has led to renewed fighting and the shuttering of humanitarian corridors that represent the only lifeline to nine million people in dire need of food – as many as one million people are teetering on the edge of famine. The severely malnourished will start dying at alarming rates without humanitarian assistance – especially children under five.
The conflict has also driven nearly 2.5 million people – the vast majority of them women and children – from their homes, as airstrikes fall upon schools, hospitals, and civilian infrastructure. Many of those fleeing to internally displaced peoples camps for safety are finding that those camps too have fallen under attack. On October 5, an indiscriminate airstrike on a school and displacement site killed more than 50 people, including children, and an aid worker has died as a result of indirect fire that landed near a food distribution site in Shire.
Humanitarian aid workers are providing vital assistance in the region and must be safe to continue their work. I offer my condolences to the International Rescue Committee following the death of one of their staff and condemn the attacks on both humanitarian aid workers and civilians.
The staggering human cost of this conflict should shock the world’s conscience. We must continue to bring pressure to bear on all parties to agree to an immediate ceasefire and for the opening of humanitarian corridors, withdrawal of EDF forces from Ethiopian territory, and for African Union-led talks to start as soon as possible with the aim of permanently stopping the bloodshed and reaching a comprehensive political settlement.