By Faith Lanyero
More than 350,000 people in Ethiopia’s Tigray region are battling famine conditions with millions more at risk according to an analysis by UN agencies and aid groups that blamed conflict for the worst food crisis in a decade.
“There is famine now in Tigray,” the UN aid chief, Mark Lowcock, said on Thursday after the release of the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis.
“The number of people in famine conditions is higher than anywhere in the world, at any moment since a quarter-million Somalis lost their lives in 2011,” Lowcock said.
An Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis update conducted in Tigray and the neighbouring zones of Amhara and Afar concluded that over 350,000 people are in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) between May and June 2021.
The number is expected to rise beyond 400,000 over the next few months if access isn’t provided to those areas, said Brian Lander, the World Food Programme’s Deputy Director of the Emergency Division.
“Overall the situation is extremely worrying” added Lander who said the WFP would need over 200 million dollars to maintain its operations over the next month.
“We’d like to get that message out to our donors very clearly because while we are able to deliver to some effect today if we don’t have the resources to maintain the pipeline of food coming into Tigray that really hampers our ability to plan forward to adapt and be responsive as the situation evolves over time,” he argued.
The UN food agencies stressed in the report released Thursday that over 60% of the population, more than 5.5 million people, are grappling with high levels of acute food insecurity (IPC Food Catastrophe level 3-5) in Tigray and the neighbouring zones of Amhara and Afar.
According to the IPC report “the key cause of acute food insecurity in Tigray is conflict as it has led to massive population displacement, widespread destruction of livelihoods and critical infrastructure, and loss of employment, the conflict has also limited access to markets.”
Lander stressed how providing humanitarian assistance in the Tigray region is extremely difficult and often risky.
“We need unimpeded access to those areas that we haven’t been able to reach to this point and we have faced severe constraints, we were stopped by armed actors from reaching certain areas,” he explained, calling for an immediate ceasefire to gain access to struggling communities.
No one knows how many civilians or combatants have been killed since months of political tensions between Ethiopian President Abiy Ahmed’s government and the Tigray leaders who once dominated it exploded into war last November.
Eritrea, a longtime Tigray enemy, teamed up with neighbouring Ethiopia in the conflict. The U.N. has criticized the lack of access to all areas of Tigray for humanitarian workers seeking to deliver aid.