After six secret discussions, the council held its first public meeting since fighting began in November between the government, backed by Eritrean forces, and fighters of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, the former ruling party in the region.
Acting UN aid official Ramesh Rajasingham told the council that the humanitarian situation in Tigray had “sharply deteriorated” in the past few weeks, with the number of people currently suffering from starvation increasing by nearly 50,000.
“It is estimated that more than 400,000 people are suffering from starvation and another 1.8 million are on the verge of starvation. Some suggest that the numbers are even greater. 33,000 children suffer from acute malnutrition.
On Monday, the Ethiopian government announced a unilateral ceasefire, which the Tigray People’s Liberation Front rejected as a joke. There were reports of continuing clashes in some areas with increasing international pressure on all parties.
Linda Thomas Greenfield, the US ambassador to the United Nations, said the Ethiopian government “must now show that it sincerely intends to use the ceasefire to address the humanitarian catastrophe”, warning that refusing aid would amount to a blockade.
The purpose of the ceasefire “is not to impose a siege but to save lives,” Tai Atke Selassie Amde, Ethiopia’s ambassador to the United Nations, told reporters after his speech to the council.
Amadi questioned the need to hold a public session in the Security Council, and informed the Council that a ceasefire had been announced to improve aid access and “should have encouraged our friends to provide support and reduce escalation.”
He added that the government hopes that the ceasefire will lead to dialogue.
The US ambassador urged the parties to the conflict to “seize the opportunity,” warning that failure could lead to catastrophic consequences for Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa.
Rosemary DiCarlo, the UN political and peacemaking official, said Eritrean forces had withdrawn to positions adjacent to the border, and that forces from Amhara province were still in areas of western Tigray that had been captured.
“In short, there is the potential for more confrontations and a rapid deterioration of the security situation, which is very worrying,” a spokeswoman told the Security Council.
DiCarlo urged the Tigray People’s Liberation Front to accept the ceasefire “immediately and completely” and urged the Eritrean forces to withdraw completely.