Over 350,000 people in Ethiopia’s conflict-ravaged Tigray region are experiencing dire hunger, finds a new report by the United Nations and other aid groups.
“There is famine in Ethiopia right now,” United Nations aid chief Mark Lowcock warned on Thursday.
According to the global Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) system, which evaluates food insecurity and malnutrition around the world, substantial parts of the Tigray region are currently in an “IPC 5 Catastrophe” status – its most severe rating.
As of May 2021, a total of 5.5 million people in Tigray and the neighbouring zones of Amhara and Afar (more than half of the population) are facing “high levels of acute food insecurity” with 353,000 facing catastrophic levels. The situation is expected to worsen through September, the report also says.
A key cause of the desperate food situation in Tigray is conflict, the report found: “This severe crisis results from the cascading effects of conflict, including population displacements, movement restrictions, limited humanitarian access, loss of harvest and livelihood assets, and dysfunctional or non-existent markets.”
Last month CNN exclusively reported that Eritrean troops were coordinating with Ethiopian forces to cut off critical aid routes. A CNN team traveling through Tigray’s central zone witnessed Eritrean soldiers, some disguising themselves in old Ethiopian military uniforms and blocking aid to starving populations.
UN agencies say they are particularly concerned by the risk of widespread famine in Tigray, if conflict escalates, and humanitarian assistance is significantly hampered.
In a tweet following the report’s release, Lowcock called for urgent funding and unobstructed access for aid deliveries.
On Thursday, US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield called on the UN Security council to meet publicly on the Tigray region and demand answers from the Ethiopian government.
“We cannot let Ethiopia starve. We have to act now,” she said.
Fighting between Ethiopian government troops and the region’s former ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), broke out in November 2020. Troops from neighbouring Eritrea latterly joined the conflict in support of the Ethiopian government.
The Ethiopian government have denied there are severe food shortages in the country.