More than 7,000 schools have been damaged as a result of the expanding conflict in Ethiopia, the education minister has said, with 1.42 million students unable to attend classes in the war-torn region of Tigray.
Northern Ethiopia has been wracked by violence since November, when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops into Tigray to topple the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), the regional ruling party, saying the move came in response to attacks on army camps.
The 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner promised a swift victory, but the war has dragged on for months, triggering a humanitarian crisis in Tigray, while the rebels have pushed into the neighbouring Afar and Amhara regions.
"As a result of #TPLF futile war in northern #Ethiopia in Tigray, Afar and Amhara regions, more than 7,000 schools have been fully (some partially) damaged," Education Minister Getahun Mekuria said Monday on his official Twitter account.
"More than 1.42M students have been out of school already (in #Tigray) or will be out of school (in Afar, Amhara)," he added, calling the development "very sad".
There was no immediate response from the TPLF to the claims, which could not be independently verified.
As the conflict has deepened, the humanitarian toll has surged, with aid workers struggling to reach cut-off populations and 400,000 people facing famine-like conditions in Tigray, according to the United Nations.
Last Thursday, the UN's humanitarian agency OCHA said the flow of aid to Tigray had virtually stopped since August 20, with no trucks able to enter the region.
"Stocks of food assistance are depleted, and new distributions of food have stopped, other than in areas where supplies were already dispatched and en route," OCHA said in a briefing note.
Since the conflict erupted, Abiy's government and the Tigrayan rebels have traded blame over the issue, with each side accusing the other of obstructing aid convoys and driving a desperate population into famine.
Earlier this month US aid chief Samantha Power accused Ethiopia of blocking humanitarian access to the region, a claim Abiy's spokeswoman denied.
According to OCHA, more than 5.2 million people require food supplies in Tigray while over 300,000 people are now estimated to be displaced in Afar and Amhara.