Boko Haram and other insurgent groups recruited over 8,000 girls and boys as child soldiers in 13 years, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said on Monday.
The agency’s comment came in a statement issued to mark the International Day Against the Use of Child Soldiers, otherwise called the “Red Hand Day”.
“For 13 years, armed conflict in north-east Nigeria has claimed thousands of lives and disrupted livelihoods and access to essential services for children and their families,” UNICEF said.
“Nearly one million homes and 5,000 classrooms have been razed in the protracted armed conflict. Since 2009, more than 8,000 girls and boys have been recruited and used as child soldiers in different roles by armed groups.”
According to the UNICEF Chief of Maiduguri Field Office, Phuong T. Nguyen, such development should end immediately.
“It is unacceptable and unconscionable that girls and boys continue to serve on the frontlines of a conflict they did not start,” Phuong added.
UNICEF while calling on the Nigerian government to sign the Handover Protocol, said the move would end the detention of children previously associated with armed groups. The protocol, it said, would also ensure that children “encountered during military and security operations are transferred from military custody to civilian child protection actors to support their reintegration into society through the provision of family tracing and reunification services and medical, educational, and psychosocial recovery services”.
Phuong, who admitted that children are severely affected by conflicts, however, called for more protection for them.
“Every day of delay in the custody of armed groups is a tragedy with grave implications for the children, families, and Nigerian society as a whole,” the UN chief noted.
The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has lamented over the rising cases of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Nigeria.
According to the international agency, Nigeria accounts for the third-highest global number of FGM with a ‘worrying trend’ which has risen from 16.9 percent in 2013 to 19.2 percent.
UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Peter Hawkins said this in a statement released on Sunday in commemoration of the International Day of Zero Tolerance of FGM.
“Female genital mutilation (FGM) remains widespread in Nigeria. With an estimated 19.9 million survivors, Nigeria accounts for the third-highest number of women and girls who have undergone FGM worldwide.
“While the national prevalence of FGM among women in Nigeria aged 15-49 dropped from 25 percent in 2013 to 20 percent in 2018 it increased from 16.9 percent to 19.2 percent in the same period,” Hawkins said.
He stressed that the case is prevalent among Nigerian girls aged 0-14 and an estimated 86 percent of females were cut before the age of 5, while 8 percent were cut between ages 5 and 14.
Hawkins added that millions of girls are being robbed of their childhoods, health, education, and aspirations every day by harmful practices such as FGM.
“The practice of FGM not only has no health benefits – it is deeply harmful to girls and women, both physically and psychologically. It is a practice that has no place in our society today and must be ended, as many Nigerian communities have already pledged to do.”
He further explained, “State prevalence ranges from 62 percent in Imo to less than 1 percent in Adamawa and Gombe. The prevalence of FGM is highest in the South East (35 percent) and South West (30 percent) and lowest in the North East (6 percent).”
To end the menace, he said, “UNICEF is initiating a community-led movement to eliminate FGM in five Nigerian states where it is highly prevalent: Ebonyi, Ekiti, Imo, Osun and Oyo.
According to him, nearly three million girls and women would have undergone FGM in these states in the last five years.
The UNICEF in response to the alarming rate of FGM cases in Nigeria has created a movement called – “The Movement for Good.” It is aimed to reach five million adolescent girls and boys, women – including especially pregnant and lactating mothers – men, grandparents, and traditional, community and religious leaders, legislators, justice sector actors, and state officials through an online pledge to ‘say no’ to FGM.
Female genital mutilation is a form of violence against women.
The House of Representatives is seeking the compulsory establishment of creches in all public and private workplaces in the country.
This, according to the House, is to assist breastfeeding/nursing mothers, especially those observing exclusive breastfeeding, to perform their official duties and care for their babies at the same time.
A bill seeking to establish the creches passed second reading on the floor of the House in Abuja on Thursday.
The bill passed the second reading in a unanimous voice vote and was sponsored by a lawmaker from Edo State, Rep. Sergius Ose-Ogun.
The long title of the bill reads, “A Bill for an Act to Amend the Labour Act, Cap. L1, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 to make Provision for Establishment of Creches in every Public or Private (Health, Educational, Industrial or Commercial, Etc.) Workplace for employees who are Breastfeeding/Nursing Mothers; and for Related Matters (HB. 1438).”
The World Health Organisation and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) both recommend that nursing mothers should feed their infants exclusively on breast milk for the first six months.
WHO states the advantages of exclusive breastfeeding thus: “Breast milk is the ideal food for infants. It is safe, clean, and contains antibodies that help protect against many common childhood illnesses.
“Breast milk provides all the energy and nutrients that the infant needs for the first months of life, and it continues to provide up to half or more of a child’s nutritional needs during the second half of the first year, and up to one third during the second year of life.
“Breastfed children perform better on intelligence tests, are less likely to be overweight or obese, and less prone to diabetes later in life.
“Women who breastfeed also have a reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancers.”
The first analysis indicated that governments and detaining authorities in at least 84 countries have released thousands of children since April 2020 when UNICEF drew attention to their increased risk of contracting COVID-19 in confined and overcrowded spaces, and called for their immediate release.
“We have long known that justice systems are ill-equipped to handle the specific needs of children – a situation further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” UNICEF Executive Director, Henrietta Fore, was quoted as saying in a statement.
“We commend countries which heeded our call and released children from detention. By protecting children from conditions that could have exposed them to grave illness, these countries were able to overcome public resistance and spur innovative, age-appropriate justice solutions.
“This has proved something we already knew – child-friendly justice solutions are more than possible.”
According to UNICEF, the study is one of two analyses that illustrate the situation for hundreds of thousands of children deprived of their liberty every year.
Both reports were released ahead of the World Congress on Justice with Children.
Children in detention – including in pre-and post-trial custody, immigration detention, held in relation to armed conflict or national security, or living with parents in detention – are often held in confined and overcrowded spaces.
“They lack adequate access to nutrition, healthcare and hygiene services, and are vulnerable to neglect, physical and psychological abuse, and gender-based violence,” the statement said. “Many are denied access to lawyers and family care, and unable to challenge the legality of their detention.
“COVID-19 has profoundly affected justice for children, shuttering courts and restricting access to essential social and justice services. Evidence shows that many children, including children in street situations, have been detained for violating pandemic curfew orders and movement restrictions.”
An estimated 261,000 children in conflict with the law – those who have been alleged, accused or recognised as having committed an offence – are held in detention, according to the second UNICEF analysis.
The second analysis – Estimating the number of children deprived of their liberty in the administration of justice – the first of such analysis since 2007, warned that incomplete record-keeping and undeveloped administrative data systems in many countries meant the number was likely to be much higher.
“Any child detained is evidence of failed systems, but that failure is then compounded further. Justice systems meant to protect and support children often add to their suffering,” said Fore.
“As policymakers, legal practitioners, academics, civil society, and children and young people convene at the World Congress this week, we must work together to end the detention of children.”
UNICEF stressed the need for authorities to ensure justice for children and safely end the detention of all children in various countries.
It, therefore, called on governments and civil society to invest in legal rights awareness for children in justice and welfare systems, especially for the most marginalised ones, expand free legal aid, representation, and services for all children, and prioritise prevention and early intervention in child offending and diversion to appropriate alternatives.
The organisation also asked them to end the detention of children – including through legal reforms to raise the age of criminal responsibility, ensure justice for child survivors of sexual violence, abuse or exploitation – including investing in child and gender-sensitive justice processes, and establish specialised child-friendly, virtual, and mobile courts.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says G20 countries have received 15 times more COVID-19 vaccine doses per capita than countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
UNICEF disclosed this in a statement on Wednesday, where it quoted a new analysis conducted by science analytics company Airfinity.
According to the agency, the analysis exposes the severity of vaccine inequity between high-income and low-income countries, especially in Africa.
“It found that doses delivered to G20 countries per capita are:
“15 times higher than doses delivered per capita to sub-Saharan African countries; 15 times higher than doses delivered per capita to low-income countries; 3 times higher than doses delivered per capita in all other countries combined.
“Vaccine inequity is not just holding the poorest countries back – it is holding the world back,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.
“As leaders meet to set priorities for the next phase of the COVID-19 response, it is vital they remember that, in the COVID vaccine race, we either win together, or we lose together.”
Wealthy countries with more supplies than they need have generously pledged to donate these doses to low- and middle-income countries via COVAX but according to UNICEF, these promised doses are moving too slowly.
“Of the 1.3 billion additional doses countries have pledged to donate, only 356 million doses have been provided to COVAX,” the UN agency said, adding that “African countries, in particular, have largely been left without access to COVID-19 vaccines.
“Less than five per cent of the African population are fully vaccinated, leaving many countries at high-risk of further outbreaks”.
However, the agency is optimistic that a push from some of its ambassadors could help the situation.
“As leaders prepare to meet for the G20 Summit in Rome this weekend, 48 UNICEF Africa ambassadors and supporters from across the continent have united in an open letter. They are calling for leaders to honour their promises to urgently deliver doses, writing that ‘the stakes could not be higher’,” the agency said.
The letter’s signatories, including Angelique Kidjo, Arlo Parks, Davido, Tendai Mtawarira, Femi Kuti, Tony Elumelu, Ramla Ali, Winnie Byanyima and others, are calling on leaders to donate the pledged vaccines by December, along with the necessary resources to turn the vaccines into vaccinations.
“Every day Africa remains unprotected, pressure builds on fragile health systems where there can be one midwife for hundreds of mothers and babies,” the letter read. “As the pandemic causes a spike in child malnutrition, resources are diverted from life-saving health services and childhood immunization. Children already orphaned risk losing grandparents. Disaster looms for sub-Saharan African families, four out of five of whom rely on the informal sector for their daily bread. Poverty threatens children’s return to school, protection from violence and child marriage.”
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), some 80,000 to 180,000 healthcare workers globally are estimated to have died from COVID-19 between January 2020 and May 2021.
Less than 1 in 10 healthcare workers in Africa have been fully vaccinated and more than 128,000 have been infected with the virus. The agency has also found only one in seven COVID-19 infections are detected in Africa due to limited testing, meaning the true number is likely much higher.
“Saving lives in Africa starts by saving the lives of the life-savers,” said Fore.
“Too many communities on the African continent were already grappling with stressed healthcare systems. They cannot go into another year of this global crisis enduring so many preventable deaths and prolonged sickness.”
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says the delisting of the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) from the United Nations Secretary-General’s report on Children and Armed Conflict as one of the armed groups recruiting and using children in north-east Nigeria, is one step forward for child protection.
“This is a welcome development for the children of Nigeria,” UNICEF Chief of Maiduguri Field Office, Phuong Nguyen, said on Monday. “But we must remember that this is the first step in a long journey.
“I urge the leadership of the CJTF to establish child protection units across its offices to prevent future recruitment and use of children and consistently model its agreement to not use children for any kind of role.”
In his latest report released this year, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres credited the delisting to a significant reduction in the number of children recruited into the ranks of the CJTF and the group’s commitment to the implementation of an action plan it signed with the UN Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting (CTFMR) in 2017 to stop the recruitment and use of children.
Children have borne the brunt of the protracted conflict in north-east Nigeria. At least 3,500 young children were recruited by parties to the conflict as combatants between 2013 and 2020.
Girls and boys have been used as suicide bombers, spies, labourers, cooks, messengers, and wives. Girls recruited by armed groups often suffer gender-based violence, including rape.
Children used as soldiers are at great risk of death or disability while undergoing armed training and initiation rites, as well as during combat.
They are forced to witness or participate in tortures and killings, triggering lifelong physical and mental health challenges. Similarly, they are denied access to education, nutrition, and conducive living conditions, among other grave violations of their rights.
“Recruiting children into armed groups steals their innocence and the protection they need,” Nguyen added. “We should not forget – deploying children as soldiers imperils peace and perpetuates the cycle of generational violence.
“I call on other armed groups and parties to the conflict to immediately stop the recruitment of children and safely reintegrate them with their families and communities, where they belong.”
Formed in 2013 with the aim of supporting efforts of the Nigerian military to protect communities from Boko Haram attacks, the CJTF expanded in size and influence in the region.
At the height of its operations in 2016, the group was listed in the annexes of the Secretary- General’s Annual Report for Children and Armed Conflict for the recruitment and use of children.
Since signing the 2017 Action Plan, however, the CJTF has released more than 2,000 children from its ranks, with many of the children enrolled in school and provided with psychosocial support by UNICEF.
Children under the age of two are not getting the food or nutrients they need to thrive and grow well, leading to irreversible developmental harm, a new report by United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has revealed.
In a communique on the issue, the UNICEF said the situation has a tendency to get much worse under COVID-19.
The UNICEF report indicated that during crucial period when children begin to transition to solid foods, just 1 in 3 are fed a diet diverse enough to grow well.
Fed to Fail?
The crisis of children’s diets in early life – released ahead of the UN Food Systems Summit this week – warned that rising poverty, inequality, conflict, climate-related disasters, and health emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic, are contributing to an ongoing nutrition crisis among the world’s youngest that has shown little sign of improvement in the last ten years.
“The findings of the report are clear: millions of young children are not being fed diets adequate for their growth and development,” said Rushnan Murtaza, UNICEF Nigeria Deputy Representative.
“Poor nutritional intake in the first two years of life can harm children’s rapidly growing bodies and brains, impacting their futures. Now more than ever, with the ongoing COVID-19 disruptions, we need to reimagine a food system that improves the diets of young children, including in Nigeria.”
In an analysis of 91 countries, including Nigeria, the UNICEF report found that half of children aged 6-23 months globally are not being fed the minimum recommended number of meals a day. Two-thirds do not consume the minimum number of food groups they need to thrive.
According to the 2018 Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey, in Nigeria, among children aged 6-23 months, only 23 per cent have the minimum necessary dietary diversity, and only 42 per cent have minimum adequate meal frequency.
As COVID-19 continues to disrupt essential services and drive more families into poverty, the report disclosed that the pandemic is affecting how families feed their children.
According to a study conducted in Nigeria last year, Nigerians were already largely unable to afford healthy diets due to pre-existing food security challenges, with an estimated 40.1 percent of Nigerians unable to cater for their food expenditure. It is likely that this will only be worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Children carry the scars of poor diets and feeding practices for life. An insufficient intake of nutrients found to support growth at an early age puts children at risk of poor brain development, weak learning, low immunity, increased infections and, potentially, death.
Children under the age of two are most vulnerable to all forms of malnutrition – stunting, wasting (low weight for height), micronutrient deficiencies, overweight and obesity – as a result of poor diets, due to their greater need for essential nutrients per kilogram of body weight than at any other time in life.
Globally, UNICEF estimates that more than half of children under the age of 5 with wasting – around 23 million children – are younger than 2 years of age, while the prevalence of stunting increases rapidly between 6 months and two years, as children’s diets fail to keep pace with their growing nutritional needs.
“In Nigeria, one out of every three children is stunted and one of every ten children is wasted. As a result, close to 17 million Nigerian children are undernourished (stunted and/or wasted), giving Nigeria the highest-burden of malnutrition in Africa and the second-highest in the world,” the UNICEF statement partly read.
It further revealed that Nigeria is off-track to achieve SDG2: Zero Hunger by 2030. Adding that to change this trajectory, “the time to act is now to reimagine not just food, but health and social protection systems”.
To deliver nutritious, safe, and affordable diets to every child year-round, the report called for governments, donors, civil society organizations, and development actors to work hand-in-hand to transform food, health, and social protection systems by:
Increasing the availability and affordability of nutritious foods – including fruits, vegetables, eggs, fish meat, and fortified foods – by incentivizing their production, distribution, and retailing.
Implementing national standards and legislation to protect young children from unhealthy processed and ultra-processed foods and beverages, and to end harmful marketing practices targeting children and families.
Increasing the desirability of nutritious and safe foods through multiple communication channels including digital media to reach parents and children with easy-to-understand, coherent information.
“We have reached a crucial tipping point,” said Rushnan Murtaza. “Only by joining hands with partners, government, and relevant stakeholders, can we transform the Nigerian food system and provide access to diverse, nutritious, safe, and affordable diets for every Nigerian child.
“The upcoming Food Systems Summit provides us the opportunity to reimagine food systems that create a fundamental shift from feeding people to nourishing them. We must apply these learnings to Nigeria so that we can secure a healthy future for our children.”
Over 300,000 Children Killed In Northeast
Meanwhile, UNICEF has revealed that more than 300,000 children lost their lives in the last 12 years because of the insurgency ravaging within the North East region.
In its latest statistics released, UNICEF also disclosed that over one million persons have been displaced within the period under review.
The agency further divulged that no fewer than 5,129 out-of-school children were currently battling mental health challenges as a result of the conflict in the North.
According to a press statement jointly released with the European Union (EU), UNICEF stated that a recent Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) needs assessment of conflict-affected children in north-east Nigeria revealed pervasive psychosocial distress manifesting as high levels of anxiety, suspiciousness, anger, aggressiveness, and hyper-vigilance.
“The scars of conflict are real and enduring for children,” said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF’s Representative in Nigeria.
“Too many children in north-east Nigeria are falling victim to a conflict they did not start. Attacks against children must stop immediately. In the meantime, we are committed to working with our partners to provide psychosocial and other support to conflict-affected children so they can regain their childhood and restart their lives.’’
Stress and violence have been linked to poor brain development, depression and poor self-esteem, and children exposed to conflict and violence are at risk of long-term mental health and psychosocial issues.
As children continue to bear the brunt of the 12-year conflict in northeast Nigeria, the EU and UNICEF are working together to provide community-based psychosocial services aimed at improving children’s mental health.
Through the EU-funded Support to Early Recovery and Resilience Project, implemented by UNICEF, at least 5,129 conflict-affected out-of-school children in Borno State, north-east Nigeria in six local government areas are receiving services including mental health support in safe spaces to strengthen their well-being, resilience, literacy skills and self-reliance.
The project also supports vulnerable children across Borno with protection and health services, vocational and basic literacy skills, access to justice and security, under a holistic humanitarian intervention that has so far provided 15,552 out-of-school children with vocational training; 1,610 out-of-school children with literacy and numeracy skills and 5,194 children enrolled into integrated Qur’anic schools across focus LGAs.
According to EU Head of Cooperation Cecile Tassin-Pelzer, “Addressing the psychosocial well-being and development of children and teachers in conflict situations is an important part of re-establishing education provision and enabling children to re-enter schools safely.”
UNICEF uses psychosocial support to help conflict-affected children manage their emotions, solve problems, deal with crises, and maintain healthy relationships.
As children continue to bear the brunt of the 12-year conflict in North East Nigeria, the European Union (EU) and UNICEF are working together to provide community-based psychosocial services aimed at improving children’s mental health.
This is according to a press statement jointly released by the European Union (EU), and UNICEF.
Through the EU-funded Support to Early Recovery and Resilience Project implemented by UNICEF, at least 5,129 conflict-affected; out-of-school children in six Local Government Areas of Borno State are receiving services including mental health support in safe spaces to strengthen their well-being, resilience, literacy skills and self-reliance.
The project also supports vulnerable children across Borno with protection and health services, vocational and basic literacy skills, and access to justice and security, under a holistic humanitarian intervention that has so far provided 15,552 out-of-school children with vocational training; 1,610 out-of-school children with literacy and numeracy skills and 5,194 children enrolled into integrated Qur’anic schools across focus LGAs.
UNICEF recently revealed that more than 300,000 children have been killed in Nigeria’s North East, while over one million have been displaced.
A recent Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) needs assessment of conflict-affected children in the region revealed pervasive psychosocial distress manifesting as high levels of anxiety, suspiciousness, anger, aggressiveness, and hyper-vigilance.
“The scars of conflict are real and enduring for children,” said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF’s Representative in Nigeria. “Too many children in North East Nigeria are falling victim to a conflict they did not start. Attacks against children must stop immediately. In the meantime, we are committed to working with our partners to provide psychosocial and other support to conflict-affected children so they can regain their childhood and restart their lives.’’
Stress and violence have been linked to poor brain development, depression and poor self-esteem, and children exposed to conflict and violence are at risk of long-term mental health and psychosocial issues, it added.
“Addressing the psychosocial well-being and development of children and teachers in conflict situations is an important part of re-establishing education provision and enabling children to re-enter schools safely,” EU Head of Cooperation Cecile Tassin-Pelzer, noted.
UNICEF says it uses psychosocial support to help conflict-affected children manage their emotions, solve problems, deal with crises, and maintain healthy relationships.
The EU-funded programme in Borno State is a component of a three-year €10 million European Union Support to Early Recovery and Resilience package to support children, youths, and communities in Borno State.
Also included in the package is the provision of vocational skills and non-formal education to at least 25,000 young people, the construction and rehabilitation of learning centers and the strengthening of education management information systems.
UNICEF on Thursday said it was horrified by yet another attack on a school in Nigeria, following the abduction of scores of students from Government Day Secondary School Kaya in Maradun Local Government Area of Zamfara State.
“We strongly condemn this attack, which has happened just a few days after kidnapped students of a school in Niger State, north-central Nigeria, were freed,” UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Peter Hawkins, said in a statement.
“We call on the authorities to take expedited action to rescue these students and reunite them with their families.
“We reiterate that attacks on schools and abduction of learners are a gross violation of children’s rights, and a horrific experience for children to go through – one which could have long-lasting effects on their mental health and overall well-being.
“Schools must be safe; no child should experience any harm because they went to school, and no parent should come to grief for sending their children to learn.”
Five of the students regained their freedom on Thursday.
Confirming the news, the Zamfara State Police Command described the return of the five students as “unconditional and safe rescue.”
The Command also assured residents that the remaining abducted students will safely return to their families.
Meanwhile, the Zamfara State Government has ordered the immediate closure of primary and secondary schools due to the worsening state of insecurity.
UNICEF, the United Nations agency responsible for providing humanitarian and developmental aid to children worldwide, on Saturday condemned the deaths of three children in Borno state.
The children were reportedly killed by unexploded remnants of war on Friday.
“The avoidable deaths of the children – as young as 12 years – who were playing on Mblu Bridge in Ngala, is yet another sad reminder that children remain direct and indirect targets of the protracted conflict wracking north-east Nigeria,” UNICEF said in a statement.
“While three children have sadly lost their lives, three others are in critical conditions while two other children sustained mild injuries.”
UNICEF said it was deeply worried that the protracted conflict in the north-east continue to affect children in the worst ways.
“First of all, we extend our deepest and heartfelt sympathy to the families of the children killed,” UNICEF’s Nigeria Representative, Peter Hawkins, said.
“No family should have to go through this – and no child should fall victim to unexploded remnants of war while playing.”
“These deaths are unacceptable. All sides to the ongoing conflict must protect children and prioritise their wellbeing at all times. Playing fields, schoolyards and communities must be safe and habitable for children.
“Children’s lives should not be at stake in a conflict they didn’t start. We must address the shrinking safe spaces for children and ensure that children – especially those already affected by conflict – are protected and have a chance to survive and fulfill their potential.”
Ethiopian soldiers destroyed UNICEF satellite equipment in war-torn Tigray on Monday, the UN agency said in a statement condemning the attack.
“Members of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces entered our office in Mekele, Tigray, Ethiopia today and dismantled our VSAT equipment,” the United Nations Children’s Fund said in a statement, referring to satellite machinery.
“UNICEF’s priority in Tigray, and across Ethiopia, is to help the most vulnerable children, including the 140,000 children already facing famine-like conditions. We are not, and should never be, a target,” the statement added.
A spokesman for the UN secretary-general Stephane Dujarric condemned “any and all attacks on humanitarian workers and assets” during a daily press conference.
“All parties must ensure the protection of civilians and all humanitarian assistance provided by the United Nations.”
UNICEF warned earlier this month that tens of thousands of malnourished children were at risk of dying in the Tigray region, which has been mired in conflict between federal troops and the regional ruling Tigray People’s Liberation Front since last November.
Intense fighting has persisted throughout the region, with mounting reports of massacres and widespread sexual violence.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government announced a unilateral ceasefire Monday, state media reported, signaling a potential turning point.
Ethiopian authorities deny the humanitarian situation in the northern region is as dire as aid agencies say, even as the UN cautions some 350,000 have been pushed to the brink of famine.