An urgent appeal has been launched for critical support for those fleeing violence in the semi-arid Tigray region of Ethiopia.
Fighting has forced hundreds of thousands of people to leave their homes and now millions are living in fear of imminent starvation.
The region’s capital, Mekelle, is being overwhelmed by displaced and traumatised people arriving every day – many are unaccompanied children who have lost their parents.
Mary’s Meals – which normally serves nutritious meals to more than 24,000 vulnerable children in the region – is appealing for donations so it can meet the immediate needs of vulnerable people.
Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow, founder of the charity, said: “The people of Tigray are facing a truly catastrophic humanitarian disaster.
“When talking to our friends and partners there, the conversation returns repeatedly to their fear of starvation.
“Amongst the displaced people seeking shelter are many unaccompanied children – and it pains us to think of the plight of the thousands of children who before this crisis were eating Mary’s Meals in school each day.
“We are determined to do whatever we can to support our incredible partners there who are already providing vital emergency help to those in desperate need – and, with them, help keep people alive until the time when children can return to school and we can resume our normal Mary’s Meals school feeding programme.”
Fighting in the area began in November last year, with a UN report now describing the humanitarian crisis as “very severe” and local authorities estimating that some 4.5 million people – representing three-quarters of the region’s population – are now facing a critical lack of food and other basic supplies.