Sexual violence is being used as a weapon of war in Ethiopia's Tigray region, where girls as young as 8 are being targeted and some women have reported being gang-raped over several days, U.N. aid chief Mark Lowcock said. "There is no doubt that sexual violence is being used in this conflict as a weapon of war," Lowcock said, adding the majority of rapes were committed by men in uniform.
"Nearly a quarter of reports received by one agency involve gang rape, with multiple men assaulting the victim; in some cases, women have been repeatedly raped over a period of days. Girls as young as eight are being targeted,"
He told the U.N. Security Council that the humanitarian crisis in Tigray had deteriorated over the past month and the United Nations had not seen any proof that Eritrean soldiers - accused of massacres and killings - have withdrawn.
"To be very clear: the conflict is not over and things are not improving," Lowcock said.
Lowcock said humanitarian access in Tigray remained a "huge problem" and that he had received a report earlier on Thursday that 150 people had died from hunger.
"This should alarm us all. It is a sign of what lies ahead if more action is not taken. Starvation as a weapon of war is a violation," Lowcock said.
Dr. Fasika Amdeselassie, the top public health official for the government-appointed interim administration in Tigray, told Reuters that at least 829 cases of sexual assault had been reported at five hospitals since the conflict began.
“Women are being kept in sexual slavery,” Fasika told Reuters.
Doctors at five public hospitals told Reuters that most of the rape victims described their attackers as either Ethiopian government soldiers or Eritrean troops. It was more common for women to report sexual violence by Eritrean soldiers, the doctors said.
Since November, fighting between federal government troops and Tigray's former ruling party has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands from their homes in the mountainous region of about 5 million. The Eritreans have been helping the central government troops.