The United Nations is deeply concerned about the people in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia. Around 350,000 people are starving and millions of people are also threatened with a food crisis, warns the UN after examining the IPC, an organisation that analyses food scarcity.
“ The number of people living in famine is higher than anywhere else in the world,” says UN envoy Mark Lowcock. He compares the situation with the famine in Somalia in 2011. The IPC itself does not speak of famine, but of “phase 5 of catastrophe”.
Harvesting has failed, and the food that is left is priceless for many people. According to estimates, more than 90% of the harvest has been lost by looting, fire or other destruction, and 80% of livestock in the region has been looted or slaughtered.
According to the IPC, the crisis in Tigray is an accumulation of disasters. “Conflicts, limited humanitarian access, failed harvest and loss of resources, and dysfunctional or non-existent markets.” For aid organisations, the area is difficult to reach since war broke out almost seven months ago between the Ethiopian government army and Tigrean militias.
Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of people have become displaced. It‘s a war behind closed doors, because no one knows exactly what’s happening in the area. There are credible accusations of looting and murders, of kidnapped refugees and of an invasion of the army from neighbouring Eritrea. Some even speak of a genocide.
Although there are overwhelming indications of a major humanitarian crisis, the Ethiopian Government has previously denied that there have been deaths. The government locked the door, aid workers and journalists barely get in.
The UN has therefore made an urgent call for food aid to be admitted. Whether this will be answered is still the question. The findings of the report are still not recognised by the Ethiopian Government. It denies the seriousness of the situation and says that aid is being given.
“ Diplomats compare the situation with the famine in 1984, 1985 in Ethiopia,” said a spokesman for the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, according to Reuters, at a press conference. “But such a thing is not gonna happen.”
Famine has been twice over the past decade: in Somalia in 2011 and in parts of South Sudan in 2017. “If the conflict escalates further or if humanitarian aid is hampered, most areas of Tigray will also be threatened with famine,” said the IPC. According to the Institute, this will be the case around September if something does not happen soon.