Weekend Herald

Report warns 350,000 suffering famine in Ethiopia’s Tigray

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A report issued yesterday warns that more than 350,000 people in Ethiopia’s Tigray province are now suffering famine and more than 2 million are just a step away, blaming the dire situation on the ongoing conflict that has forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee, limited humanitari­an access and the loss of harvests and income.

The report said the 350,000 people represent the largest number of people facing famine since the 2011 famine in Somalia.

It projects that between July and September the number of people facing famine will rise to more than

400,000.

The Integrated Food Security Phase Classifica­tion known as the IPC, which is a global partnershi­p of

15 UN agencies and internatio­nal humanitari­an organisati­ons, prepared the report. It uses five categories of food security, from people who have enough to eat to those facing “Famine-Humanitari­an Catastroph­e”.

In that worst category now confrontin­g more than 350,000 people in Tigray, at least 20 per cent of households face a complete lack of food “and starvation, death and destitutio­n are evident”. In addition, acute malnutriti­on is evident in more than 30 per cent of households and deaths from starvation exceed two people per 1000 population every day.

The report says more than 2 million Tigrayans are just a step below in the “Humanitari­an Emergency” category characteri­sed by extreme gaps in food consumptio­n, acute malnutriti­on and excess mortality in at least 20 per cent of households. And more than 3 million Tigrayans in the “crisis” category are just below that.

UN humanitari­an chief Mark Lowcock told a virtual high-level meeting on the humanitari­an emergency in Tigray organised by the US and European Union yesterday that “there is famine now” in the region, and warning that “this is going to get a lot worse”.

But Lowcock told representa­tives from the Group of Seven major industrial­ised nations and EU that “the worst can still be avoided” if action is taken to help Tigray now.

He said it’s crucial to prevent a rerun of the 1984 famine in Ethiopia, which “would have wide-ranging and long-lasting ramificati­ons”.

David Beasley, head of the UN World Food Programme, the world’s largest humanitari­an organisati­on, called the new data “alarming” and said the lack of data from western Tigray in the analysis is “deeply worrying”. Forces from the neighbouri­ng Amhara region have reportedly attacked civilians and taken control of areas in western

Tigray. WFP has mounted an emergency operation and increased food distributi­on to reach 1.4 million people, Beasley said, “yet that is barely half of the number we should be reaching”, and other agencies are struggling as well. Countless people, especially in rural areas, can’t be reached because armed groups are blocking access, he said.

The largely agricultur­al Tigray region of about 5 million people already had a food security problem amid a locust outbreak when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on November 4 announced fighting between his forces and those of the defiant regional government. Tigray leaders dominated Ethiopia for almost three decades but were sidelined after Abiy introduced reforms that won him the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019.

No one knows how many thousands of civilians or combatants have been killed. More than 50,000 have fled into neighbouri­ng Sudan.

Though Abiy declared victory in late November, Ethiopia’s military and allied fighters remain active — including troops from neighbouri­ng Eritrea, a bitter enemy of the nowfugitiv­e officials who once led Tigray, despite claims by Ethiopia and Eritrea that they were leaving.

Beasley said WFP teams report that in 53 villages they visited, 50 per cent of mothers and almost a quarter of children they’ve been screening are malnourish­ed, and without food urgently, “many of them will die”.

He said three things are needed to prevent hunger from claiming millions of lives in Tigray: “A ceasefire, unimpeded access for WFP and partners to all areas, and the money to expand our operations to meet the growing numbers of people who desperatel­y need emergency food assistance.”

Oxfam, one of the partners, echoed his appeal for an end to the violence, unconditio­nal and safe access to all areas for humanitari­an workers, and funds for the UN’s US$853 million ($1.19 billion) appeal for northern Ethiopia.

Emily Farr, Oxfam’s emergency food security adviser, said that after drought, locusts, losing their property, cattle and food stocks, “the stresses now hitting local economies and livelihood­s caused by the Covid19 pandemic” are “potentiall­y the last straw for many” in Tigray.

US Ambassador Linda ThomasGree­nfield told the US-EU meeting the United States is the largest bilateral donor to Ethiopia for the current humanitari­an response, which is “woefully underfunde­d”, and she urged additional funding.

“We cannot make the same mistake twice,” she said, referring to the 1984 famine. “We cannot let Ethiopia starve. We have to act now.”

 ?? Photo / AP ?? Displaced Tigrayans queue to receive donated food in Mekele, northern Ethiopia.
Photo / AP Displaced Tigrayans queue to receive donated food in Mekele, northern Ethiopia.

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