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Over 100,000 children could face extreme starvation in Ethiopia's Tigray region

U.S. sends aid to Ethiopia over hunger crisis
U.S. sends aid to Ethiopia in hopes of easing hunger crisis in Tigray 02:46

The United Nations is warning of a worsening humanitarian catastrophe in Ethiopia. UNICEF said Friday more than 100,000 children could face extreme starvation in the next year as a result of major fighting in the country's northern Tigray region.

USAID Administrator Samantha Power is heading to the embattled region on Saturday in hopes of easing what is now the world's worst hunger crisis in a decade.

The pictures out of Tigray are heart-wrenching, showing children in the streets and families in disarray, all under the threat of starvation. Food convoys have been barred from accessing the region. It's been over a month since the last one made it's way through, "CBS This Morning: Saturday" co-host Michelle Miller reports. 

"Our worst fears about the health and well-being of children in that conflicted region of northern Ethiopia are being confirmed," UNICEF spokesperson Marixie Mercado said Friday at a press conference.

Ethiopia Tigray Crisis
A Joint UN and INGOs team carries out a rapid response mechanism in response to the humanitarian needs of communities affected by the ongoing conflict in Ethiopia's Tigray region, July 19, 2021.  UNICEF via AP

Mercado said aid workers need unfettered access to prevent famine and assaults, like one she described on a young woman: "She watched her grandmother get killed. She was raped by several men as she watched her 9-month-old baby get tossed around by other men."

The conflict pits Ethiopia's central government, led by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, against Tigrian forces to the north. The two sides had fought together in a previous conflict with neighboring Eritrea.

A peace deal brokered by Abiy Ahmed won him a Nobel Prize in 2019. "I think prime minister Abiy joins the list of Nobel peace prize winners ... who use all that goodwill and squander it," said Simon Adams, the executive director of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect.

"There's no good guys in this conflict," he said. "There are no real heroes in this except ordinary people who are crushed between these competing armed forces who are displaced from their homes."

By last November, tensions between Ahmed's government and Tigray turned violent. It's estimated that millions have since been displaced. 

Adams said the visit from Samantha Power "sends a very powerful signal that these atrocities ... can no longer be ignored." It also sends a strong message to the government of Ethiopia and warring factions that they need to find a way to begin a dialogue and end the conflict in order to end the human rights abuses and famine, CBS News' Pamela Falk reports. To underscore the point, Power will meet with Ethiopian refugees in Sudan who recently "fled the conflict and atrocities in the Tigray region," the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) said.  

Power will also meet in Addis Ababa with U.N. and international humanitarian assistance partners to see how food and supplies are stored and prepared for delivery throughout Ethiopia, "including to the Tigray region, to feed families who need it most," the U.S. aid agency said.   

Her itinerary includes meetings with Ethiopian government officials "to press for unimpeded humanitarian access to prevent famine in Tigray and meet urgent needs in other conflict-affected regions of the country."  

On Friday, the U.S. aid agency announced it is providing more than $149 million in additional humanitarian assistance, including more than $105 million from USAID, making the point that "the United States is the largest single donor of humanitarian aid to the Tigray response efforts, providing nearly $637 million since the conflict began." 

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