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ALMOST 5,000 children have been separated from their parents in Ethiopia’s Tigray region since it was plunged into conflict six months ago, Save the Children said today.
The charity said that many of them have no adult caregivers and are at risk of neglect and sexual and physical abuse.
Forced to live in unsafe conditions at informal camps, some children are reportedly sleeping in rooms shared by 50 people, exposing them to further risks of harm.
More than 1.7 million people have been forced to flee their homes in the northern state since Ethiopia’s government launched a military offensive last November.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed claimed to be targeting the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which governed the region, after it held elections in defiance of Addis Ababa.
But Tigray has since suffered a humanitarian crisis, with widespread allegations of war crimes, including the rape of civilians by soldiers.
Thousands of troops from neighbouring Eritrea have also been operating alongside Ethiopian military forces, a fact which was denied until recently.
Access to Tigray has been limited with communication regularly cut off, making it difficult to get a reliable picture of the situation on the ground.
But the UN has said there are indications of alarming levels of malnutrition in the state, affecting children as well as pregnant and breastfeeding mothers.
Save the Children Ethiopia director Ekin Ogutogullari added that hundreds of thousands of people have still not received assistance, pointing to the underfunded humanitarian response.
Meanwhile the European Union has cancelled its observer mission for Ethiopia’s June 5 elections, citing “lack of agreement on key parameters.”
EU representative Josep Borrell said that standard requirements, such as guarantees of the mission’s independence, had not been met.
“It is disappointing that the EU has not received the assurances necessary to extend to the Ethiopian people one of its most visible signs of support for their quest for democracy,” he said.
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