Pope Francis
Pope Francis delivers his message during the Angelus noon prayer from the window of his studio overlooking St.Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Sunday, June 13, 2021. Image Credit: AP

Rome: Pope Francis on Sunday offered his prayers to the people of Ethiopia's conflict-wracked Tigray region, which has been hit by famine.

"I am particularly close to the people of the Tigray region in Ethiopia, struck by a serious humanitarian crisis which exposes the poorest to famine," he said during his Angelus prayer.

"Today there is famine, there is hunger. Let us pray together for an immediate end to the violence, for everyone to be guaranteed food and health assistance, and for the return as soon as possible of social harmony."

The UN has said that over 90 per cent of the more than five million people in the Tigray region need emergency food aid, and has urgently appealed for more than $200 million to scale up its response.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, sent troops into the northern region in November to detain and disarm leaders of the Tigray People's Liberation Front, the region's former ruling party.

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

Though he vowed the conflict would be brief, fighting continues more than six months later and reports of atrocities - including the widespread use of rape - are proliferating.