The US international development agency has blamed the Ethiopian government for a shortage of humanitarian aid in the country’s conflict-torn Tigray region.

A man puts wheat into a container in Ethiopia's northern Tigray region

USAID says food aid in Tigray is on the brink of running out

USAID accused the government of “obstructing” access to Tigray, as it warned that food aid was set to run out this week for the first time.

Hundreds of thousands of people are at risk of famine amid the conflict between government and rebel forces.

Ethiopia has denied “purposely” blocking aid.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s spokeswoman told reporters that the government was allowing aid convoys to enter Tigray, but that security was a “priority that cannot be compromised”.

“It is a volatile area so… there [are] going to be continuous checks and processes,” she said.

In her statement, USAID chief Samantha Power described the flow of humanitarian assistance into the northern region as “woefully insufficient”.

She said food warehouses were “virtually empty” and that aid workers would soon have nothing to distribute.

“This shortage is not because food is unavailable, but because the Ethiopian government is obstructing humanitarian aid and personnel, including land convoys and air access,” she said.

USAID called on the Ethiopian government to “immediately allow humanitarian assistance”.

It noted that aid trucks have been unable to leave the town of Semera in the neighbouring Afar region – currently the only accessible land route into Tigray.

The United Nations has separately told the BBC more than 100 aid trucks are stuck on this route.

Its World Food Programme has warned that it is running out of stocks of food.

The conflict in Tigray began in November, when Mr Ahmed ordered a military offensive against regional forces. He said he did so in response to an attack on a military base housing government troops.

The escalation came after months of feuding between Mr Abiy’s government and leaders of Tigray’s dominant political party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

For almost three decades, the party was at the centre of national power, before it was sidelined by Mr Abiy, who took office in 2018 after anti-government protests.

Mr Abiy – a Nobel Peace Prize winner – pursued reforms, but when Tigray resisted, the political crisis erupted into war.

The Ethiopian government has designated the TPLF as a terrorist group, while it says it remains the legitimate government in Tigray.

Source – BBC