UNITED NATIONS: Martin Griffiths, the new UN emergency relief coordinator, went to a site for internally displaced people in Ethiopia's embattled Tigray region on Friday, a UN spokesman said.

Humanitarian partners of the world organization briefed the undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs on his first mission as the relief chief, said Eri Kaneko, associate spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Griffiths also met with people affected by the crisis.

"According to our humanitarian partners, an estimated 5.2 million people need assistance in Tigray," she told reporters at a regular briefing.

The UN Children's Fund (Unicef) estimates that more than 100,000 children in Tigray could suffer from life-threatening severe acute malnutrition in the next 12 months, a tenfold increase compared to the average annual caseload.

"This malnutrition crisis is taking place amid extensive, systematic damage to the food, health, nutrition, water, and sanitation systems and services that children and their families depend on for their survival," Unicef said.

"The risk of disease outbreak is high, particularly in the overcrowded, unsanitary sites hosting displaced families."

Alice Wairimu Nderitu, the UN special adviser to the secretary-general on the prevention of genocide, expressed alarm at ethnic violence in Ethiopia and reports of serious human rights violations and abuses, including alleged sexual violence, recruitment of child soldiers, arbitrary arrests and ethnic-based targeted killings committed by all parties.

She also condemned inflammatory statements used by top political leaders and associated armed groups.

"Such dynamics in the current sociopolitico context, characterized by deep-seated ethnic tensions across the country, constitute a dangerous trajectory in the direction of further pulling communities apart," Nderitu said in a statement.