/ 28 September 2021

Tigrayans are starving to death

Small mercies: A rare aid convoy arrives in Tigray on 20 September. (WFP)

There are fears of food shortages and hunger in Ethiopia’s conflict-hit Tigray region, nearly three months after the United Nations warned that 400 000 people had “crossed the threshold into famine”. Conditions in Ethiopia’s northernmost region have deteriorated sharply since then, as “a de facto blockade of humanitarian aid” prevents food and medical supplies from reaching the region, according to the UN.

The Ethiopian federal government has denied blocking humanitarian aid.

New reporting from assorted media outlets last week painted a grim picture of civilian life in Tigray, where a 10-month war between the region’s army and the national army has displaced nearly two million people and left thousands dead. Children and their parents are said to be going days without food, and some mothers are feeding leaves to their children to try and survive. Others are eating nothing but bread and salt.

Dr Hayelom Kebede, research director of Ayder Referral Hospital in Tigray’s capital Mekele, told AFP: “People are just dying. With starvation, the bad thing is you will see people in the throes of death, but they will not die immediately. It takes time, after their body is weakened and weakened and weakened. It’s more horrific than bullet deaths.”

Tigrayan forces retook the region in June and the federal government declared a unilateral ceasefire, ostensibly on humanitarian grounds. But the region is now more cut off than ever; electricity, telecommunication lines and banking services are not working.

The Abiy Ahmed-led government in Ethiopia denies there’s hunger in the region and blames the Tigrayan leadership for the insecurity leading to the delayed delivery of aid. 

This article first appeared on The Continent, the pan-African weekly newspaper designed to be read and shared on WhatsApp. Download your free copy here