Fighting displaces 200,000 in Ethiopia's Amhara region -U.N. aid chief

FILE PHOTO: A member of Amhara Special Forces stands guard along a street in Humera town, Ethiopia July 1, 2021. REUTERS/Stringer

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) -United Nations aid chief Martin Griffiths said on Tuesday that accusations by Ethiopian authorities that aid workers were favouring and even arming Tigrayan forces were "dangerous."

"Blanket accusations (against) humanitarian aid workers need to stop...They need to be backed up by evidence if there is any and, frankly, it's dangerous," he said.

Tigrayan forces pushing south and west into the neighbouring Amhara region have displaced 200,000 people there, Griffiths said, and 54,000 in Afar region to the east.

The war erupted eight months ago between Ethiopia's central government and the region’s ruling party, the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF).

Amhara's spokesperson Gizachew Muluneh confirmed the number of displaced people in Amhara.

Afar regional spokesperson Ahmed Koloyta and spokespeople for the prime minister and a government task force on Tigray did not respond to a request for comment.

U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price called on Tigrayan forces to withdraw from the Amhara and Afar regions. He reiterated calls on Amhara and Eritrean forces to pull out troops from western Tigray and called for unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid.

The government of Ethiopia suspended operations for the Dutch branch of medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres, MSF said on Tuesday night, explaining it received a letter on July 30 suspending their activities for three months.

“We are in the process of urgently seeking clarification from the authorities around the reasons and details for this suspension,” MSF said in a statement.

The Norwegian Refugee Council was given similar orders, a spokesman said in a statement, adding that it was in "dialogue with authorities."

The United Nations says that around 400,000 people are living in famine conditions in Tigray, and more than 90% of the population needs emergency food aid.

“We need 100 trucks a day going into Tigray to meet humanitarian needs," Griffiths told reporters in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, adding that the number was a "calculated need" and not "over-estimated."

He also said 122 trucks made it into Tigray in recent days.

The United Nations children's agency warned last week that more than 100,000 children in Tigray could suffer life-threatening malnutrition in the next 12 months, a 10-fold increase over normal numbers.

(Reporting by Addis Ababa newsroom with additional reporting by Daphne Psaledakis in Washington; writing by Giulia Paravicini; editing by Mark Heinrich)

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