Full-scale humanitarian crisis unfolding in Ethiopia: UN refugee agency

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A “full-scale humanitarian crisis” is unfolding in Ethiopia, the United Nations refugee agency said on Tuesday, with more than 27 000 now having fled heavy fighting to Sudan.

The pace of the exodus, some 4 000 a day, may also indicate “massive displacement” within the Tigray region, UN agencies said, saying teams on the ground were overwhelmed.

Ethiopia’s prime minister warned on Tuesday that a deadline for rebel northern forces to lay down arms had expired, paving the way for a final push on the Tigray region’s capital in a two-week conflict destabilising the Horn of Africa.

“UNHCR is warning that a full-scale humanitarian crisis is unfolding as thousands of refugees flee ongoing fighting in Ethiopia’s Tigray region each day to seek safety in eastern Sudan,” Babar Baloch, spokesman of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, told a Geneva news briefing.

“UNHCR is on standby to provide assistance in Tigray when access and security allow”,” he added.

Jens Laerke, spokesperson of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told the briefing: “There may be massive displacement inside Tigray and that is, of course, a concern and we try to prepare the best way possible.”