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Ethiopia’s Tigray Region Ravaged by Deadly Famine

Ethiopia’s Tigray region faces a devastating famine, with thousands in desperate need of aid. The aftermath of war and drought leaves residents, especially the elderly, struggling for survival.

It’s been just over a year since the devastating Tigray War came to an official end. But now, Ethiopia’s Tigray region finds itself in the grip of another humanitarian crisis: famine.

In the village of Atsibi in Tigray’s east, 70-year-old Gebremariam Hagos is trying to collect what’s left of the remaining grains from this year’s extremely poor harvest. 

“We spend our days looking for pieces of grain like birds,” he told DW. 

The father of five now lives alone in his family’s house. The rest of his family, including his wife and children, have migrated to different parts of the region in an attempt to escape the crisis.

“This is a famine, we are starving,” he says. “Some days I’m able to find something to eat. Other days I go to bed with an empty stomach. What can we do? Where can we go?”

The ones left behind

Northern Ethiopia has been beset with acute food shortages since the onset of the Tigray War in November 2020. In addition to the conflict — in which around 600,000 people died — locust infestations and an ongoing drought in the Horn of Africa have exacerbated the crisis.

For much of the war, the region was under a blockade, which effectively halted humanitarian aid and created famine-like conditions.

The famine is now widespread across at least 12 districts in Tigray. In many parts of the Atsbi Wenberta district, rivers and other water bodies have dried up, alongside food sources. According to the district’s administration, 111 people have died from starvation alone in the last three months. In another nearby district called Abergele, local officials say 76 have died. 

As conditions worsened, many young, able-bodied people left the area. But older people have mostly stayed. 

Fittsum Woldegbriel, 65, told DW that it only rained twice in her area last winter — something she’s never experienced before. 

“Everything we’ve planted has not yielded any harvest,” she said. 

“I have never seen or heard of such a famine since my mother gave birth to me. In the past, when there was a problem, you would go somewhere and beg to eat. Now we don’t even have the energy to migrate.”

Gebremariam believes their only hope now is outside intervention. 

“If we manage to get aid, we will eat and live. If not, tragically, we will die.”

Residents call for more aid

Frustration is growing among residents over what they view as an inadequate response to the crisis — both at the local and international level. 

According to the Interim Regional Administration (IRA) of Tigray, approximately 2 million people are at risk of starvation across Tigray, with another 5.2 million in need of food aid.

Atsibi District Administrator Mezgebe Girmay warns that the situation is quickly spiraling out of control. 

“We have 97,000 residents in this distract and some 82,000 are in an emergency situation,” he told DW. 

“We are in crisis here, people are dying in front of our eyes. Government and non-government agencies have to take responsibility and do what they can to alleviate the suffering.”

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is due to restart food aid deliveries across Ethiopia this month after halting the program five months ago over a corruption scheme run by local officials. The Ethiopian government has since agreed to “operational changes” in the distribution of the supplies. 

The World Food Program (WFP) also paused its food distributions in June this year before resuming in October. The WFP says it now works directly with communities to identify those most in need and digitally register them for more precise tracking of aid.

A joint study by local health authorities and Mekelle University published in September claims at least 1,329 deaths in Tigray can be attributed to starvation following the food aid cuts.

Source: DW News



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