Recent fighting in Ethiopia’s Tigray region has resulted in a famine that now affects more than 400,000 people, according to UN officials.
During its first public meeting on the crisis, members of the UN Security Council warned that up to 33,000 children were severely malnourished.
Officials said an additional 1.8 million people were on the brink of famine due to the eight months of conflict.
They also warned of further clashes despite the declaration of a ceasefire.
The Ethiopian government, which is fighting regional forces in Tigray, declared a unilateral ceasefire on Monday.
However, the rebels have vowed to drive their “enemies” from the region and sporadic clashes have been reported as pressure intensifies internationally for all parties to the conflict to withdraw.
Fighting between the Popular Front for the Liberation of Tigray (TPLF) and government forces has already left thousands dead and more than two million people have been displaced.
All parties to the conflict have been accused of committing massacres and human rights violations.
Several thousand captured Ethiopian soldiers marched through the streets of the regional Tigrayan capital Mekelle on Friday.
The acting UN humanitarian aid chief told members of the Security Council at a meeting in New York on Friday that the situation in Tigray had deteriorated dramatically in recent weeks.
The region was in “the worst famine situation we have seen in decades,” said Ramesh Rajasingham.
“Almost 5.2 million people are still in need of humanitarian assistance – the vast majority are women and children,” he added.
The Ethiopian government has denied claims it is blocking aid after Tigrayan rebels took control of much of the northern region earlier this week.
Tigray – the basics
Ethiopia is divided into 10 ethnically defined regional states described as largely autonomous, but with central institutions
In 2018, following anti-government protests, Abiy Ahmed took over and introduced reforms
Powerful politicians in Tigray, Ethiopia’s northernmost state, accused Abiy of trying to increase federal power
Relations deteriorated, and after the government accused Tigrayan rebels of attacking military bases, the Ethiopian military intervened in November.
Mr Abiy said the conflict ended at the end of November, but the fighting continued and escalated ahead of the national elections on June 21
UN chief of political affairs Rosemary DiCarlo told the meeting that further clashes were likely between the Tigrayian forces, the Tigray Defense Forces (TDF) and Ethiopian troops, supported by Eritrean soldiers. and Amhara regional forces.
“There is a potential for further confrontations and a rapid deterioration of the security situation, which is extremely worrying,” she said, adding: “We urge the TDF to endorse the ceasefire immediately and completely.” .
Fighting began last November, when rebels rejected political reforms and took military bases. Government forces captured Mekelle later that month.
After a swift offensive, the rebels recaptured Mekelle and entered the town of Shire earlier this week, about 140 km (90 miles) to the northwest, according to UN officials.