Tigray children stare at severe malnutrition as warring sides deny using starvation as a weapon
Source: The East African
Thousands of Tigray children are “severely malnourished” following 15 months of fighting that has affected delivery of food aid, warn United Nations agencies.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said at least 115,000 children are severely malnourished.
In its latest situational report, the UN said the humanitarian situation in Tigray is worsening.
On Monday, World Health Organisation Director-General Tedros Adhanom said the situation could be worse than estimated as the world moves on from the conflict to other global issues.
“Humanitarian and health aid must be given safe passage to reach people in Tigray, who have been under blockade for over a year. Food and health care are basic human rights,” Dr Tedros said on Monday.
Both sides to the conflict deny using starvation as a weapon but they have traded blame on who exactly is responsible for the continual blockade that has lasted for more than three months after Addis Ababa first announced their reopening.
In March alone, the UN said it had managed to deliver some food aid via airlift. Last week, the United Arab Emirates said it had delivered 30 metric tonnes of food.
At least two million people have been displaced by the war that began in November 2020 when Ethiopian forces launched an offensive on the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). Most of the food has been blocked because trucks cannot access the region via major highways, after fighting continued, the UN said.
Movement of humanitarian trucks
“Not a single aid truck has reached Tigray since Mid-December 2021,” Kindeya Gebrehiwot, spokesman of the TPLF said on Monday.
However, the Ethiopian government said it was keen on alleviating the situation.
“The federal government of Ethiopia has been playing constructive roles in facilitating the smooth movement of humanitarian trucks along the Afar route to address the humanitarian needs of the Tigray region,” the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry said.
Last week, Ethiopia said it had dispatched 20 trucks of food and three of fuel to Makelle and promised that 40 trucks will be heading to Tigray every day in future.
“It was due to renewed attacks in Afar that more than 700,000 people have been displaced and the humanitarian route to Tigray blocked,” it added.
“The government, however, believes that no strings should be attached to protecting the rights and satisfying the humanitarian needs of our people and expects a similar commitment from other actors to let the aid to keep flowing to the people.”
There had been fears the conflict was getting little attention as other problems emerge globally.
Dr Tedros lamented the Tigray situation was now “out of sight, out of mind” as the media was still blocked from covering the area.
On Monday, US Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, David Satterfield returned to Ethiopia to push for an urgent humanitarian corridor that has been missing since December, in spite of promises by warring sides. It was unclear whether he secured any assurances on humanitarian corridors, although his itinerary showed he was to meet with UN and African Union officials, as well as the AU High Representative for the Horn of Africa, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo.
But displacements and risk of starvation are not the only atrocious results of the conflict.
Last week, a video emerged of a man being burnt alive. And a preliminary investigation by the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said the man had been tortured and killed by forces allied to Ethiopian forces as punishment for his alleged association with Tigray fighters who had launched an attack near the Benishangul-Gumuz region. Overall, the Commission said some 750 civilians have been killed since September last year, in Afar and Amhara regions that border Tigray, reflecting how the conflict has expanded over time and roped in more areas.
In the burning incident, TPLF accused the Fano militia group of being behind the heinous attack. The group is allied to the Ethiopian forces battling the TPLF.
After months of fighting and humanitarian problems, there had been fears the conflict was getting little attention as other problems emerge globally. Dr Tedros lamented the Tigray situation was now “out of sight, out of mind” as the media were still blocked from covering the area and new crises like the Russian invasion of Ukraine emerged.
On Monday, US Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, David Satterfield returned to Ethiopia on Monday to push for an urgent humanitarian corridor that has been missing since December, in spite of promises by warring sides.
It was unclear whether he secured any assurances on humanitarian corridors, although his itinerary also showed he was to meet with UN and African Union officials, as well as the AU High Representative for the Horn of Africa, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Ethiopians who fled the conflict in the Tigray region in northern Ethiopia wait to receive food in Hamdayit camp, Kassala State, Sudan on December 14, 2020. PHOTO | FILE