Could A Fragile Cease-Fire In Tigray End World's Worst Hunger Crisis?

Millions of civilians in hard-to-reach Tigray areas, in northern Ethiopia, are at risk of malnutrition and illness.

Could A Fragile Cease-Fire In Tigray End World's Worst Hunger Crisis?
AP Photo/Ben Curtis

A glimmer of hope in the embattled region of Tigray in northern Ethiopia. 

After eight months of deadly war and as nearly a million face the world's worst famine crisis, a possible cease-fire.

But just days after it was announced, the risk of more hostilities remains high. 

"Events on the ground right now are not over," said Ethiopian political analyst Tamerat Negera. 

On Monday, Ethiopia's military announced an immediate cease-fire after it was forced to cede the regional capital to local Tigray fighters.

But a spokesperson for Tigray forces rejected the truce as a "sick joke" and vowed to fully liberate the region.

"We will stop at nothing to regain every square inch of our territory and degrade their fighting capabilities," said Getachew Reda, the spokesperson for the Tigray People's Liberation Front.

In response, Ethiopia's government now says its military could soon return. It's also unclear whether neighboring Eritrea will abide by the cease-fire and stop fighting the rebels.

With the war likely to continue, millions of civilians in hard-to-reach areas are at risk of malnutrition and illness. 

"We call for calm and restraint and appeal to all parties to the conflict to abide by international law to protect civilians, including people who have been displaced," said Boris Cheshirkov, a spokesperson for the U.N. refugee agency.

Ethiopia and Eritrea have been accused of blocking the delivery of humanitarian aid.

"We want to see greater access to, for humanitarian workers. And frankly, from what we've seen here, things are not going in the right direction," said Stephane Dujarric, a United Nations official.

A letter from a health official obtained by the AP paints a dark picture from inside one remote region of Tigray — more than 100 people starved to death, hundreds of sexual assaults, homes looted and crops burned.

Beyond the reach of aid, the official writes, people are "falling like leaves."

Tigray forces say they won't enter negotiations with the Ethopian government until communications, transport and other services are restored.

Still, for now, the cease-fire could calm a conflict that has destabilized Africa's second most populous country and a key security ally to the U.S.