GENEVA, 18 January 2021 – The humanitarian situation in Ethiopia’s northen Tigray region is “severe” and there are increased risks of malnutrition, the United Nations warned Monday.
The data is based on the findings of needs assessment missions deployed to Tigray by the government-run Tigray Emergency Coordination Center (ECC).
Hundreds of thousands of people could starve to death in Tigray where some 4.5 million people are in need of emergency food assistance.
With an estimatinated population of five-to-seven million inhabitants, the data means four-in-five Tigrayans are food insecure.
The “situation… is dire,” leaked notes from an ECC official seen by humanitarian workers warned.
“If urgent emergency assistance is not mobilized hundreds of thousands [of people] might starve to death,” the notes added.
“People are dying because of starvation,” the ECC notes continued, adding: “In Adwa, people are dying while they are sleeping”.
“Food and non-food items or other livelihoods are either looted or destroyed,” the notes said.
ECC needs assessment missions found that “food is not available or is extremely limited in markets across Tigray”.
About 500,000 people are believed to have been driven from their homes by the armed conflict which began last November 4 when Ethiopian federal forces were sent into the region to restore order.
Addis Ababa accused fighters of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) of killing 50 soldiers in an attack on a military base in the region during which they reportedly stole weapons.
The TPL, which ruled Ethiopia for over 20 years until Prime Minister Aby Ahmed came to power in 2018, has denied the accusations
At the end of Novermber 2020, Addis Ababa declared victory in the conflict, but fighting continues in several parts of the region, according to the United Nations.
Thousands of people have been killed and no fewer than 100,000 people have fled into UN-run refugee camps in neighboring Sudan.
The Ethiopian embassy in London reassured humanitarian organizations in a statement published last Friday that the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is committed to work with all partners to “address any outstanding challenges that could hinder the safe, effective, and efficient delivery of humanitarian assistance to all affected populations”.
The United Nations has accused the Ethiopian government of restricting access to Tigray where phone and Internet service remains shutdown.
In response to accusations that government forces have targeted civilians in the fighting, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has insisted that his soldiers are using proportional force to restore law and order as well as arrest and bring to justice what he calls a “criminal clique”.
On Friday, the European Union foreign affairs chief, Josep Borrell disagreed with PM Abiy Ahmed, stating that the situation in Tigray is “well beyond a purely internal ‘law and order’ operation”.
“We receive consistent reports of ethnic-targeted violence, killings, massive looting, rapes, forceful returns of refugees [to Eritrea] and possible war crimes,” Borrell said in the statement.