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UN Sounds Alarm on Tigray Harvest

File - A 34-year-old displaced single mother, is seen with her five children in Nebelet, Tigray region, Ethiopia, as food aid runs out there, July 21, 2021.

The desperate need for food aid in Ethiopia's war-torn Tigray region will persist into 2022 because the harvest is set to fail, U.N. humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths warned Friday.

Griffiths, the United Nations' new emergency relief coordinator, sounded the alarm on the scale of the challenges facing the northern region, following a six-day visit to Ethiopia.

He visited the capital Addis Ababa and Tigray, and he met Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen.

"I had a lot of discussions with the local administrators in Tigray, about what they need — and they need food," Griffiths told a press conference at the U.N. in Geneva.

"The harvest, which has recently been planted, is likely only to produce between a quarter and maximum a half of its likely production. So, the need for food is going to go right through until next year. This is no small effort."

Griffiths reiterated his call for the fighting to end.

"The war has to stop, and the humanitarian cease-fire is a glaring necessity," he said.

Abiy sent troops into Tigray last November to oust the region's ruling party, the Tigray People's Liberation Front — a move he said was in response to TPLF attacks on federal army camps.

Though the 2019 Nobel Peace laureate declared victory later that month, TPLF leaders remained on the run, and fighting dragged on.

Griffiths welcomed Abiy's unilateral cease-fire declaration and added: "Make it reciprocal and give the people of Tigray, and their neighbours now, half a chance of survival in these next months of desperate need."

Trucks, supplies 'ready'

The humanitarian chief said the main conclusion from his visit was the need to get 100 trucks of aid a day rolling into Tigray.

"That's the challenge, is making that pipeline work," he said.

Griffiths said Ethiopia's leaders "all spoke constructively and solidly to me about their efforts to make this work".

U.N. agencies hit out last week, saying they were facing continual difficulties getting supplies, staff and equipment flowing into the Tigrayan capital Mekele.

"Up until today, we have just seen 178 trucks, which were stuck in Afar, the neighboring region, waiting to go in, [that] have crossed and have now reached Mekele," said Griffiths.

"I gather there's about another 40 waiting to get to their destination."

Griffiths said that if the blockages hindering the flow of trucks into Tigray came to a stop, the U.N. was ready to roll.

"Yes, we are ready to do it," he told reporters.

"The World Food Program, which leads the humanitarian efforts on logistics, has the trucks and the supplies ready and assure me that the pipeline can keep flowing — if it's allowed to."