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The United Nations called Wednesday for the opening of critical aid routes in Ethiopia's war-torn Tigray, warning that the region -- already threatened with famine -- risked running out of food supplies.

Access into the region was cut off last week after the only available route for aid delivery was made inaccessible following an attack on a World Food Programme convoy.

About 150 trucks with food and other supplies are being held in Semera "pending security clearances", while another 44 left for Tigray on Wednesday, the UN's humanitarian agency OCHA said in a statement. 

Semera is the capital of Afar region, which borders Tigray to the east and had become key after two bridges along other routes were destroyed in late June.

The last convoy reached the Tigrayan capital Mekele on July 12 and current food rations could only last up to Friday, the OCHA warned.

"Nutrition partners will also soon run out of the essential ready to use formula to treat an estimated 4,000 severely malnourished children every month," it added.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops into Tigray last November to detain and disarm leaders of the region's then-ruling party, the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF).

He said the move came in response to TPLF attacks on federal army camps.

The 2019 Nobel Peace laureate declared victory in late November after government forces took Mekele, but TPLF leaders remained on the run and fighting continued.

- Fuel shortages warning -

Last month the war took a stunning turn when pro-TPLF forces retook Mekele, Abiy declared a unilateral ceasefire and the army mostly pulled out of Tigray.

But after rebel leaders launched a new offensive intended to regain control of western and southern Tigray -- contested areas occupied by fighters from the Amhara region, which borders Tigray to the south -- Abiy vowed to "repel" them.

The government has since mobilised forces from regions previously untouched by the conflict, including Oromia.

The fighting has heightened the humanitarian crisis in the region, where the UN has already warned that 400,000 people have been pushed into famine.

"A lack of supplies, fuel and communication equipment is expected to effectively halt humanitarian response in two weeks," the OCHA said, adding that an estimated 600 trucks of relief items were needed every week.

"Fuel shortages have particularly affected health assistance, including vaccinations and other life-saving services, and risk disrupting access to safe water for up to 450,000 people." AFP/Yahoo News

The agency called for the restoration of basic services so as to provide life-saving services, including vaccinations, and urged the warring parties to protect civilians and humanitarian workers.

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