Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Tuesday denied that people were dying of hunger in the drought- and conflict-wracked country, which is grappling with a food crisis.

"There are no people dying due to hunger in Ethiopia," Abiy told the lower house of parliament, responding to lawmakers' questions.

He acknowledged, however, that "people may have died" due to illnesses associated with malnutrition.

Last month, the national ombudsman said nearly 400 people had died of hunger in the northern regions of Tigray and Amhara.

The head of the federal body which oversees good governance and respect for rule of law told reporters the deaths had occurred over the last six months.

Abiy said the government had released more than $250 million for food aid in the affected regions.

"We can't be blamed for ignoring drought and hunger," he said.

Several humanitarian sources have confirmed to AFP the seriousness of the food crisis in Ethiopia but indicated a lack of data to corroborate deaths directly due to hunger.