Providing aid to millions of children uprooted by the ongoing crisis in the Tigray region of Ethiopia must be a priority, the head of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) said on Tuesday.
Fighting between regional and government forces began in November, displacing people within the northern province and pushing thousands more to seek shelter in neighbouring Sudan.
UNICEF estimates that despite an agreement on access, some 2.3 million children are cut off from humanitarian assistance amid the violence.
"We are extremely concerned that the longer access to them is delayed, the worse their situation will become as supplies of food, including ready-to-use therapeutic food for the treatment of child malnutrition, medicines, water, fuel and other essentials run low," said Henrietta Fore, the agency's Executive Director.
"Protecting these children, many of whom are refugees and internally displaced, and providing them with humanitarian aid must be a priority."
At the ready
UNICEF and partners stand ready to provide lifesaving support, including treatment for malnourished children, critical vaccines, emergency medicines and sanitation supplies.
Partners on the ground have also received assistance but Ms. Fore said this is not enough, adding, "we need to be able to provide support at scale in Tigray and to have full access to determine the scale of children's needs."
Meanwhile, UNICEF has appealed for sustained, impartial access to all families, wherever they are located.
"We also urge authorities to allow the free movement of civilians wishing to seek safety elsewhere. This includes those requesting to cross the border to seek international protection. Meeting the critical needs of children and women must not be delayed any longer," said Ms. Fore.