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Ethiopia: Half of Tigray in 'severe' food shortage

August 20, 2022

Even with humanitarian convoys allowed to enter Tigray, rates of malnutrition have skyrocketed, according to the World Food Program. The UN officials warned that the situation is likely to get worse.

A convoy of World Food Program trucks en route to the Tigray region
A fuel shortage and other issues have hampered humanitarian efforts to get food into the Tigray regionImage: Eduardo Soteras/AFP/Getty Images

Nearly half of people in the war-torn Tigray region of Ethiopia are suffering from a "severe" lack of food, the World Food Program (WFP) announced in a new report on Friday.

Since November 2020, the region has been the center of a conflict between the Tigray People's Liberation Front — which led the country's previous government — and the current administration of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. The fighting has plunged the region into a humanitarian crisis.

The WFP found that 89% of the Tigray's region's six million people lack consistent access to food, while 47% are deemed "severely food insecure." Across the Tigray region plus the neighboring Afar and Amhara regions, an estimated 13 million people need food aid.

"Hunger has deepened, rates of malnutrition have skyrocketed, and the situation is set to worsen as people enter peak hunger season until this year's harvest in October," the report said.

It also found that half of pregnant or lactating women in the Tigray region are malnourished, as well as a third of children under five, leading to stunting and maternal death.

A map of the Tigray and Afar regions in Ethiopia
Nearly 90% of Tigray residents lack consistent access to food

Cease-fire not enough

Humanitarian aid to the region resumed in March when the Ethiopian government unilaterally declared a ceasefire. However, "this is yet to translate into increased humanitarian assistance, as other challenges remain, such as limited access to fuel," according to the WFP.

Much of the region's banking and telecommunications systems remain offline, further hampering local efforts to buy and transport food.

The federal government said earlier this month it wants peace talks "with no preconditions", while the Tigray People's Liberation Front has called for the restoration of services to civilians first.

The United Nations said that since April 1 only 1,750,000 liters (462,000 gallons) of fuel has entered the Tigray region — less than 20% of the monthly humanitarian needs.

The first shipment of grain from Ukraine to Africa in months has already departed for Djibouti, where the food will then be transported overland to the Tigray and neighboring regions.

Tigray crisis leaves Abala a ghost town

zc/msh (Reuters, AFP)