The conflict-ravaged region of northern Ethiopia, Tigray is on the verge of famine, with the starvation calamity bigger than anywhere in the world at the moment. According to the current data by the UN, no less than 350,000 people are afflicted by the war-triggered famine, making it the worst food crisis in decades.
Tigray on The Verge of Famine
Ethiopia, one of the most peaceful countries in the African continent just years ago has fallen into chaos. The escalation that started a couple of months back between the government and the region’s former ruler Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), has pushed Tigray into hue and cry, and the situation is getting worse with every passing day. The fighting and bloodshed have ravaged the war-torn area.
The current escalation has killed thousands of people till now and forced over two million to migrate internally and outside the country. Ethiopian and Eritrean troops are accused of massacres, ethnic cleansing, and other inhumane atrocious war crimes in Tigray.
Humanitarian aid workers have been delivering life-saving food to millions of people in Ethiopia for the past couple of months, but situations don’t seem to get any better anytime soon. Ceasefire agreements have been rejected many times as the government keeps claiming the near end of the conflict.
‘Death Is Knocking On Our Doors’
The current crisis is painting a picture of a very extreme situation. The 1980 famine in Ethiopia killed an estimated one million people, and the jarring image of mass starvation is horrifying people again. According to the people living in an isolated district located in the west of Tigray, Qafta Humera, the situations are dire and frightening. Civilian’s cattle and crops have been snatched away by the armed men. Pro-government forces and militias have taken control over the western Tigray region since November 2020.
One of the farmers told BBC, “We were eating small remains of crops that we managed to hide, but now we don’t have anything. Death is knocking on our door, you can see the huger on the face of each of us.”
Residents are stuck in the war zone, unable to flee, they are completely dependent on aid services. Amidst the deadly contagious virus, the surviving population is running out of medical help. Due to the constant clashes between TPLF and security forces in the conflicted region, aid workers are not able to reach the people stuck amidst the growing escalation. Where food and clean drinking water are scarce, medicine and COVID vaccines are a luxury.
IPC Declared Phase 5 Catastrophe in Tigray
In the past week, the Integrated Phase Classification (IPC) has declared Phase 5 Catastrophe cataclysmic food shortage in Tigray with warnings that large parts of the regions are on verge of starvation. IPC is a measure of food scarcity formed by a number of non-government aid organizations including the UN agencies.
Though famine threshold is not yet reached because less than 20% of the country’s population is affected by malnutrition and death till now. But, IPC also said, “If the conflict further escalates or, for any other reason, humanitarian assistance is hampered, most areas of Tigray will be at risk of famine.”
“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.” found the IPC analysis.
Mr. António Guterres, secretary-general of the United Nations has warned that the situation will “only keep getting worse” unless funding on the aid supply and humanitarian assistance is made available to the larger population of the worn-torn region.
The International Response
The United Nation’s World Food Programme (WFP), UNICEF, and Food and Agricultural Organisation are calling for urgent action from the Ethiopian and international government to address the food crisis.
According to the IPC analysis, famine is lurking and it’s just a matter of a few months before mass starvation and death hit a large section of Tirgray’s population. The inaccessible data of people stuck in the conflicted zone is yet not included in the study, international aid organizations fear that famine might already have struck Tigray.
IPC predicts that 5.5 million people are living in dire need of food assistance. Acute food scarcity and insecurity scenarios are likely to worsen by September. Mark Lowcock, UN’s humanitarian chief said in a conference, “there is famine now in Tigray. This is going to get a lot worse.”
But Ethiopia’s government is denying IPC’s analysis of food scarcity in the country. The Nobel peace prize winner prime minister Abiy Ahmed has expressed confidence that the war will end in a few weeks.
David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Programme said that only ceasefire, emergency aid assistance, and more fund to increase the aid operation are the only way to save millions of people from dying of starvation in Tigray.