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Crisis in Ethiopia’s Tigray: UN Humanitarian Chief Says There is a Famine

More than 35,000 people in the Tigray region of Ethiopia are suffering from a severe crisis. UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock stated that there is a famine occurring in Northern Ethiopia after the UN-backed analysis released of the situation. He further added that it is going to get worse. The study found that the Tigray region is devastated by the fighting between rebels and government forces, with 1.7 million people displaced since November 2020, when the fighting actually began.

The statement of the UN humanitarian chief at the roundtable discussion drew on the authoritative analysis of the crisis by the UN-backed IPC or Integrated Food Security Phase Classification. It is estimated that 353,000 people were in phase 5 or catastrophe, and a further 1.769 million people are in phase 4 or emergency in the Tigray region. All this is just a technical term of calling it a famine. The IPC just did not mention the word as it is politically sensitive, and the Ethiopian government may object.

Behind all these numbers lies the brutal human tragedy as huge numbers of deaths are occurring due to starvation. The World Food Programme of UN, FAO or Food and Agricultural Organization and UNICEF, all have called for an emergency action to address the crisis. The IPC or the analysis was not endorsed by the government of Ethiopia, which denied that there is a famine in the nation. It insists that all the humanitarian access is being extended as it restores order in the region.

Cascading Impacts of the Conflict

The IPC is a measure to assess the severity of food shortages, prepared by multiple organizations, which include non-governmental aid organizations and UN agencies. An IPC assessment conducted in Tigray and several neighboring zones, including Afar and Amhara, concludes that more than 3,50,000 people are remaining in catastrophe between May and June 2021. This severe crisis is the outcome of the cascading effect of the conflict, including restriction of movement, population displacements, loss of harvest and livelihood assets, limited humanitarian access, and non-existent or dysfunctional markets, the analysis further adds.

The report says that as of May, about 5.5 million people were encountering high levels of scarce food insecurity in Tigray, and the situation is going to worsen more by September. Residents in the region have expressed that they have seen vehicles passing by carrying aid, but nobody bothered to ask about their predicament.

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