UN: Famine is imminent in Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region

“We are hearing of starvation-related deaths already,” Mark Lowcock said in a statement.“There have been deliberate, repeated, sustained attempts to prevent them getting food.”

Source: The Independent

The U.N. humanitarian chief is warning that famine is imminent in Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region and the country’s north and there is a risk that hundreds of thousands of people or more will die

Ethiopia Tigray Caught in the Middle
Ethiopia Tigray Caught in the Middle

The U.N. humanitarian chief warned Friday that famine is imminent in Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region and the country’s north and there is a risk that hundreds of thousands of people or more will die.

Mark Lowcock said the economy has been destroyed along with businesses, crops and farms and there are no banking or telecommunications services.

“We are hearing of starvation-related deaths already,” he said in a statement.

People need to wake up,” Lowcock said. “The international community needs to really step up, including through the provision of money.”

No one knows how many thousands of 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 Ethiopia’s government exploded into war last November.

Eritrea a longtime Tigray enemy, teamed up with neighboring Ethiopia in the conflict.

In late May, Lowcock painted a grim picture of Tigray since the war began, with an estimated 2 million people displaced, civilians killed and injured, rapes and other forms of “abhorrent sexual violence” widespread and systematic, and public and private infrastructure essential for civilians destroyed, including hospitals and agricultural land.

“There are now hundreds of thousands of people in Northern Ethiopia in famine conditions,” Lowcock said. “That’s the worse famine problem the world has seen for a decade, since a quarter of a million Somalis lost their lives in the famine there in 2011. This now has horrible echoes of the colossal tragedy in Ethiopia in 1984.”

In the disastrous famine of 1984-85, about 2 million Africans died of starvation or famine-related ailments, about half of them in Ethiopia.

“There is now a risk of a loss of life running into the hundreds of thousands or worse,” Lowcock said.

He said getting food and other humanitarian aid to all those in need is proving very difficult for aid agencies.

The United Nations and the Ethiopian government have helped about 2 million people in recent months in northern Ethiopia, mainly in government-controlled areas, he said.

But Lowcock said there are more than a million people in places controlled by Tigrayan opposition forces and “there have been deliberate, repeated, sustained attempts to prevent them getting food.”

In addition, there are places controlled by the Eritreans and other places controlled by militia groups where it is extremely difficult to deliver aid, he said.

“The access for aid workers is not there because of what men with guns and bombs are doing and what their political masters are telling them to do,” the undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs said.

Lowcock said all the blockages need to be rolled back and the Eritreans, “who are responsible for a lot of this need to withdraw,” so aid can get through to those facing famine.

“Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed needs to do what he said he was going to do and force the Eritreans to leave Ethiopia,” he said.

Lowcock said leaders of the seven major industrialized nations — the United States United Kingdom, Germany, France, Japan, Italy and Canada — need to put the humanitarian crisis and threat of widespread famine in northern Ethiopia on the agenda of their summit from June 11-13 in Cornwall, England.

“Everyone needs to understand that were there to be a colossal tragedy of the sort that happened in 1984 the consequences would reach far and last long,” he said.


  1. The use of humanitarian aid as weapon of war by Ethiopian government and its allied forces is well known and this has been reported by several credible sources since the beginning of the war that has been collectively declared against the peoples of Tigray.

    What the world is demanding now is for an action that could force the invading Amhara, Ethiopian and Eritrean forces to withdraw immediately from Tigray. These forces are not only obstructing humanitarian aid to reach the needy, but they are also committing genocidal crimes against the people of Tigray. Therefore, it is necessary that the world demands the forcefully withdrawal of Ethiopian and Eritrean forces from Tigray. Otherwise, the people of Tigray will face a similar man-made humanitarian crisis that had been witnessed by the world in 1984.

    We need to act now to save the life of the innocent people of Tigray because tomorrow cab be too late. If the World does not act now, we are not only allowing the invading forces to loot and cause more damage to the properties of the people of Tigray, but also kill more lives. I am sure this what the World wants. So, let us act now.

    Victory to the people of Tigray!!!

  2. Ethiopia’s regime has frozen tens of thousands of bank accounts of people in Tigray; leaving the account holders in penury. As a child, I used to pore over birr notes during the Haile Selassie era; I did not make much to the meaning of “Payable to the bearer on demand.” I do now! A refusal to honor it; is tantamount to starving the populace.

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