Tigray famine: Tragedy of man-made crisis in Ethiopia

As per IPC analysis, famine conditions in Tigray are in phase 5, which starts with a catastrophe warning and rises to a declaration of famine in a region. More than 3,50,000 people in Ethiopia’s Tigray are suffering famine conditions, with millions more at risk. 

Created On: Jun 14, 2021 14:44 ISTModified On: Jun 14, 2021 14:45 IST
Famine in Tigray

According to an analysis by the United Nations agencies and aid groups, more than 3,50,000 people in Ethiopia’s Tigray are suffering famine conditions, with millions more at risk. The international agencies have blamed the conflict in the region for the worst catastrophic food crisis in a decade.

The UN aid chief Mark Lowcock said on June 10, 2021, there there is a famine now in Tigray. He made the statement after the release of the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis, which the IPS noted has not been endorsed by the Ethiopian Government.

Lowcock added that the number of people in famine condition in Tigray is higher than anywhere in the world, at any moment since a quarter-million Somalis lost their lives in 2011. Most of the 5.5 million people in Tigray need food aid.

Tigray Crisis: What is happening in the Horn of Africa region?

The conflict in Tigray that began between the Ethiopian Federal Government and the ruling party in the Tigray region in September 2020 has now blown up into a full crisis.

The fighting further escalated between the government and the region’s former ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) in November 2020, and the troops from neighbouring Eritrea also entered the conflict in Tigray to support the Ethiopian Government.

As per the local government officials, some 2.2 million people have been displaced by the fighting and many have been forced to flee the country. The reports of sexual violence against women and girls have also emerged in the region.

Although Ethiopia’s Federal National Disaster Risk Management Commission has disputed the number of displaced people, the independent observers globally have agreed that it was exceptionally high.

Ethiopia’s Tigray Crisis: What led to the crisis and what is the role of Eritrea?

What led to the famine condition in Tigray?

As per the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis, famine conditions in Tigray are in phase 5, which starts with a catastrophe warning and rises to a declaration of famine in a region.

The analysis stated that this severe crisis results from the cascading effects of conflict, including population displacements, limited humanitarian access, movement restrictions, loss of harvest and livelihood assets, and dysfunctional or non-existent markets.

Food being used as a weapon of war:

In the ongoing military conflict in Tigray between the Ethiopian government and the ruling party of the region, the Eritrean forces that joined the conflict from the federal government’s side have been accused of destroying the property and burning crops.

The UN aid chief Mark Lowcock explained that the Eritrean forces have been trying to deal with the Tigrayan population by starving them. Blocking the supplies to over a million people, food is definitely being used as a weapon of war.

What Ethiopian Government is saying on claims of famine in Tigray?

The Ethiopian Federal Government has disputed the claims made by IPC analysis and has stated that the food shortages are not severe and that aid is being provided in the Tigray region.

The Foreign Ministry spokesman of Ethiopia, Dina Mufti said that the government is providing food aid and help to farmers in Tigray.

He added that the diplomats have been comparing it with the 1984, 1985 famine in Ethiopia. That is not going to happen.

Is there a famine declaration in Tigray yet?

For the famine to be declared, at least 20% of the population must be suffering extreme food shortages, with one in three children acutely malnourished and two people out of every 10,000 dying daily from severe starvation and disease.

Famine has been declared twice in the past decade- in Somalia in 2011 and in parts of South Sudan in 2017.

As per the IPC, if the conflict further escalates, or due to any other reason, humanitarian assistance is hampered, most areas of Tigray will be at the risk of famine.

Call for immediate action:

The European Union and the United States have called for an immediate ceasefire, humanitarian access to Tigray and the withdrawal of Eritrean troops. They warned that the crisis threatened to destabilize the broader Horn of Africa region.

The US Ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas Greenfield said that a humanitarian nightmare was unfolding and that this is not the kind of disaster that can be reversed.

While referring to previous famine in Ethiopia that killed more than 1 million people, she stated that we cannot make the same mistake twice, we have to act now.

To stop hunger from killing millions of people in Tigray, the Executive Director of the World Food Programme, David Beasley called for a ceasefire along with unimpeded aid access and more money to expand aid operations.

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