More than 400,000 in conflict-hit Tigray suffering famine

People at a market in Ethiopia People at a market in Ethiopia Photo by Erik Hathaway on Unsplash

03 July 2021

In Ethiopia’s conflict-hit Tigray, more than 400,000 people are suffering from famine and another 1.8 million are on the brink.

The UN Security Council held its first public meeting on the conflict in the Ethiopian region of Tigray on 2 July, days after Tigrayan forces retook the region’s capital, Mekelle. The conflict started in November 2020 between Ethiopia’s federal government backed by Eritrean troops and fighters from Ethiopia’s Amhara region, and forces aligned to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the then-ruling party in the region. The Ethiopian government declared a unilateral ceasefire on 28 June, but the TPLF dismissed this as a “joke”. UN political and peacebuilding affairs chief Rosemary DiCarlo said there is potential for more confrontations and deterioration in security.

Acting UN aid chief Ramesh Rajasingham spoke to the Council about the dramatically worsening humanitarian situation in Tigray, with an estimated 400,000 people having crossed the threshold into famine and a further 1.8 million people on the brink of starvation.  33,000 people are severely malnourished, two million people are displaced and almost 5.2 million people require humanitarian assistance.

While Mr Rajasingham described a positive development with the UN planning to send convoys to difficult-to-reach areas, the UN World Food Programme only has enough food for one million people for one month in Mekelle, a fraction of what is needed. Rajasingham urged all armed and security actors in Tigray to guarantee safe road access for humanitarian workers and supplies.

The Security Council took no action and made no statement after its first open meeting. The Ethiopian ambassador to the United Nations, Taye Atske Selassie, questioned the need for the Security Council’s public meeting, stating that the ceasefire was declared to improve aid access and that it “should have encouraged our friends to give support and de-escalate the unhelpful pressure.”


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Author: Irina Kovacevic; Editor: Catherine Meunier

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