UN chief deeply concerned about indiscriminate shelling of Tigray

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UNITED NATIONS -- UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is deeply concerned over reports that indiscriminate shelling is causing civilian casualties in northern Ethiopia, a UN spokesman said on Friday.

Stephane Dujarric, the chief spokesman for Guterres, said the UN chief underlines that military action cannot bring sustainable peace.

"The secretary-general notes that the continuation of the conflict jeopardizes the safety of civilians, the delivery of much-needed humanitarian assistance, and the stability of the broader Horn of Africa region," Dujarric said. "He reiterates his call for an immediate cessation of hostilities, the disengagement of the regional countries from the conflict, and for the parties to move forward with the African Union-led mediation process as a sign of urgency."

Recently published reports said troops from neighboring Eritrea entered Tigray in support of Ethiopia in its battle with the Tigray rebels.

The spokesman told reporters in a regular briefing that the situation in northern parts of Ethiopia remains unpredictable and fluid, with hostilities continuing to drive more people from their homes. Hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children were displaced in parts of Tigray and neighboring Afar and Amhara regions.

He said that hostilities affect the lives and livelihoods of millions of people living in conflict areas. Large parts of Tigray and several locations in the neighboring Amhara and Afar regions are now inaccessible due to the ongoing fighting. "This is significantly disrupting our humanitarian operations, as well as access to people in need, including displaced people."

Dujarric said humanitarian convoy movements into Tigray from Afar were suspended on Aug. 24, which cut off life-saving supplies to millions of people in need. Then, on the following day, UN Humanitarian Air Service flights into and out of Tigray stopped, and "that has halted our ability to rotate humanitarian workers in and out and the transport of key supplies, as well as cash, which is a critical component of our humanitarian operations."

However, the spokesman told reporters that humanitarian partners of the world body continue to respond where they can work in the three regions, despite the many challenges they face and "the stretched resources and capacities we have."

He said that in Tigray, humanitarian partners distribute the remaining stocks. During Sept. 15-21, they reached more than 775,000 people with food, but due to limited supplies, some 230,000 of these people received less than they would have otherwise.

"In Amhara and Afar, our partners are providing newly displaced people with food, water, emergency shelter, and other supplies, as well as health services," Dujarric said. "In southern and northeastern parts of Ethiopia, communities are continuing to suffer from a devastating drought following four consecutive failed rainy seasons. Our partners are now targeting about 17 million men, women, and children for assistance for the rest of the year in those areas. Seventeen million."

He said that UN humanitarians continue to call on the parties to the conflict to take constant care to spare civilians and civilian objects, including vital infrastructure. "And, of course, yet again, we reiterate our call to immediately facilitate the resumption of the rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian workers and supplies, so that we can help those people that need help in conflict areas, wherever they are, in accordance with international humanitarian law."

The spokesman also said the world body appeals for urgent funding to support the response across Ethiopia.

"Our partners are reprogramming their response to address the most urgent needs and to sustain life-saving operations," he said. "At least an additional 1.8 billion U.S. dollars, 60 percent of the total amount needed, is still not with us."

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