The United Nations says the humanitarian situation is deteriorating in the volatile Ogaden region of Ethiopia. The world body has also called for an independent investigation into reports of human rights violations there. From U.N. headquarters in New York, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.
The United Nations warns that humanitarian conditions have substantially deteriorated in conflict areas of the predominantly ethnic Somali region of Ethiopia, where the military and rebels have been clashing.
U.N. spokeswoman Michele Montas told reporters Thursday that a recent mission to the area found that the price of food had nearly doubled due to government restrictions on commercial and livestock trade. She added that household food reserves are nearly exhausted, and food aid operations have been seriously delayed.
"The mission fears that the situation could rapidly worsen within two or three months unless more food gets to the population," she said.
The United Nations says emergency food aid is needed for some 600,000 people in the Ogaden for the next three months.
The mission also noted that many people in these areas expressed fear at being caught in the middle of the on-going conflict between the Ethiopian military and Ogaden rebels.
The rebels and several human rights groups accuse the military of human rights abuses, a charge the Ethiopian government has denied.
U.N. spokesman Yves Sorokobi says the mission has looked into these accusations and has prepared an internal report that has not been published. He would not comment on its contents, only to say:
"Clearly in a conflict between rebels and the government, the chances are some rights abuses are being committed," he said. "The report was based on a fact-finding mission that itself was prompted by a number of accusations made by human rights groups."
The Ethiopian army launched a crackdown on the region following an attack by rebels from the Ogaden National Liberation Front in April against a Chinese-owned oil field that killed more than 70 workers.