Relief workers in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region blame parties to the conflict for the denial of cargo movements and confiscating of aid trucks and supplies, the UN humanitarian agency said.

“Sporadic fighting and military reinforcement are being observed across the region,” Xinhua news agency quoted the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) as saying on Thursday.

“Access in some areas, however, is feasible but volatile.”

Military checkpoints aggressively search humanitarian vehicles and regularly demand proof of permission from local authorities or the military, the Office said in a release.

Humanitarian partners are scaling up their response but are not yet able to keep pace with mounting needs.

The challenge is from a combination of insecurity, access constraints, ongoing communications disruptions, and a lack of funding, OCHA said.

Of the 5.2 million people targeted to receive food assistance, out of a total population of a little more than 7 million, only about 1.8 million people received aid since late March.

The Unicef and partners said they screened more than 172,000 children under five years of age and found severely acute malnutrition levels at 2.7 per cent and moderate acute malnutrition at 19.6 per cent.

Malnutrition levels among 45,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women were an alarming 46 percent, the humanitarians said.

Screening and treatment for children and pregnant and breastfeeding women have decreased in the past two weeks due to lack of access.

On May 9, OCHA said it visited Adwa in the central zone with teams from the International Organization for Migration.

Internally displaced people were not getting sufficient aid. However, the World Food Programme gained access to Zana town in the northwestern area.

The Northern Ethiopia Humanitarian Response Plan targets all of the estimated 5.2 million people in need in Tigray with assistance, including an estimated 2 million displaced people.

The UN and partners seek $853 million for the relief plan until the end of the year, but there is a significant shortfall of more than $500 million.

–IANS

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