U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) chief Samantha Power will visit Ethiopia next week to press for humanitarian access into conflict-battered Tigray as fears of famine grow, it was announced Thursday.
Power will meet officials in Addis Ababa to “press for unimpeded humanitarian access to prevent famine in Tigray and meet urgent needs in other conflict-affected regions of the country,” USAID said in a statement.
Power will also travel to Sudan on her trip starting Saturday as Western powers seek to support the civilian-backed transitional government after decades of authoritarian rule, USAID said.
The United Nations has warned that food rations in the Tigrayan capital Mekele could run out this month if more aid is not allowed in.
All available routes into Tigray are impeded by restrictions or insecurity following an attack on a World Food Program convoy earlier this month.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, in November launched an offensive in Tigray in response to attacks by the region’s then ruling party against federal army camps.
The war took a stunning turn last month when the forces of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front took back Mekele, with rebels then launching a new offensive.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has described some of the violence in Tigray as “ethnic cleansing” and repeatedly pressed Abiy by telephone, voicing alarm despite the long, warm U.S. relationship with Ethiopia.
Power, a former journalist who held senior positions under former President Barack Obama, is known for her advocacy of humanitarian concerns and often reflects on the failure to prevent the Rwandan genocide in 1994.
Power will also meet in Sudan with Ethiopian refugees who have fled the conflict and travel to Darfur — the parched western region where a 2003 campaign against the African ethnic minority was described as genocide by Washington.
Sudan’s civilian prime minister, Abdulla Hamdok, has sought to end the vast nation’s myriad conflicts including in Darfur although renewed clashes have killed hundreds of people in recent months.
Power will meet Hamdok as well as the military chief, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who remains leader of Sudan’s transitional ruling body as Sudan prepares for elections in 2022.
Power will “explore how to expand USAID’s support for Sudan’s transition to a civilian-led democracy” and deliver a speech in Khartoum about the transition, the agency said.