Written by DivijaVaish, a grade 12 student
Ethiopia is a country in the “Horn of Africa” and Tigray is the country’s northernmost province, home to almost six million ethnic Tigrayans.
According to an analysis by the United Nations, more than 350,000 people in this region are suffering through famine conditions. In November, severe fighting broke out between the ruling party and the government troops which left thousands dead and forced more than two million people to relocate to mountainous regions.
For a famine to officially be declared, at least twenty percent of the population must be suffering from extreme food shortage, one in three children acutely malnourished and two in every ten thousand people dying everyday from starvation or malnutrition and disease. Conditions in Tigray are as bad as this, if not already worse. However, the head of Ethiopia’s National Disaster Risk Management Commission stoutly denied everything and said, “We do not have any food shortage.”
Tigrayans are facing a brutal humanitarian tragedy.
They tell stories of remote villages where every rising sun brings with it yet another set of dead bodies, women who were kidnapped by the army and held as sexual slaves, fathers and grandfathers forced by the military to rape their own daughters and granddaughters at gunpoint. Based on data released from Tigray, an estimated 300,000 children might have died of starvation.
To survive, the Tigrayan farmers need to be cultivating their harvest, but they can’t. Not only do they not have any seeds, cattle or fertilisers, they are being threatened by soldiers who say they will punish the farmers if they are seen farming. So the farmers have taken to ploughing in the darkness at midnight, while the others act as look-outs for marauding soldiers. If they are not able to do this, their only options will be to wait until aid finally reaches them from a government that refuses to acknowledge the fact that the region is facing a famine- or starve.
“It was never like this,” said FissuhHailu of the Irob Advocacy Association. Before, he said, “We had places to run away.”
Mark Lowcock, the top humanitarian emergency official at the UN, said that this situation was the worst in any country since the 2011 Somalia famine; the number of people affected by the crisis was “higher than anywhere else in the world” and “this is going to get a lot worse”.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, who participated in the webcast meeting, said “the very place that woke the modern world up to the scourge of hunger” four decades ago was at risk of a repeat. “We cannot make the same mistake twice,” she said. “We cannot let Ethiopia starve.”