The UK will provide another £29 million of humanitarian aid to northern Ethiopia as conflict in the region continues to spread, the Government has announced.

The UN estimates that 5.5 million people in northern Ethiopia face acute food insecurity and 400,000 people are suffering famine-like conditions as a result of fighting in the Tigray region that began in November 2020.

With the conflict now spreading beyond the borders of Tigray into the Afar and Amhara regions, the UK has decided to increase its aid commitment to more than £75 million, making it the second-largest donor behind the United States.

It also follows an announcement on Wednesday of an additional 26 million US dollars (£18.9 million) by Washington, bringing its total aid contribution to nearly 663 million US dollars (£482.9 million) since the start of the conflict.

UK Africa minister Vicky Ford said: “The Ethiopian people are facing a humanitarian catastrophe and are in urgent need of support.

“This pledge will provide vital food, water and healthcare to the hundreds of thousands of people facing famine in northern Ethiopia.”

The situation has been made worse by the Ethiopian government’s de facto blockade of the region that has prevented 90% of critical assistance reaching the people of Tigray.

Ms Ford added: “This is a man-made crisis. I urge all parties to urgently agree a ceasefire to allow humanitarian aid to reach starving people.”

The conflict in northern Ethiopia began almost a year ago when tensions between prime minister Abiy Ahmed and regional politicians in Tigray spilled over into a military confrontation.

Thousands are believed to have died as a result of the conflict and the UN and international human rights groups have accused both sides of committing war crimes.

Abiy Ahmed
The conflict began when tensions between Ethiopian prime minister Abiy Ahmed and regional politicians in Tigray spilled over into a military confrontation (Mulugeta Ayene/AP)

The new UK assistance will be delivered by UN agencies and charities including the World Food Programme, Unicef and the Ethiopia Humanitarian Fund, who expect to deliver lifesaving nutrition treatment for more than 100,000 malnourished children and 27,000 pregnant women and new mothers.

UK aid will also help deliver clean water and sanitation for 26,000 people and provide services to prevent and respond to gender-based violence for almost 3,000 women and children.

Nick Dyer, the UK’s special envoy for famine prevention, recently returned from his third visit to the conflict zone.

He said: “On my third visit to Ethiopia since the start of the Tigray conflict, I saw a further deterioration of the crisis and the conditions for humanitarian operations.

“We are pleased to provide more funding but humanitarian agencies need access into all areas where people are in need now, so that lives can be saved and catastrophic famine avoided.

“The conflict in northern Ethiopia has spread beyond the borders of Tigray now, so we are expanding UK funding to reach those in urgent need in Afar and Amhara.”