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Ethiopian children will starve and die as violent carnage continues

A child looks out from inside a vehicle damaged in fighting in Gijet in Tigray in Ethiopia. © UNICEF / Christine Nesbitt

MASS child starvation is expected to rise tenfold in Ethiopia’s conflict-ridden Tigray region as warfare continues to shatter emergency supply lines.

In 2019, Ethiopian President Abiy Ahmed claimed to distance the country from tense and longstanding ethnic nationalism by condensing regional parties into a nationally representative Prosperity Party.

Tigray People’s Liberation Front, the previous ruling party of Ethiopia, refused to join the ruling Prosperity Party until violent tensions erupted in November 2019 as insurgencies to control Mekelle, the capital of Tigray region, made rape and extrajudicial killings a daily occurrence.

UNICEF spokesperson Marixie Mercado now estimates that over 100,000 children in Tigray could suffer from life-threatening severe acute malnutrition over the next twelve months.

“Screening data also indicates that 47 per cent of all pregnant and breastfeeding women are acutely malnourished,” she said.

“These alarming rates suggest that mothers could face more pregnancy-related complications, increasing the risks of maternal death during childbirth as well as the delivery of low-birth-weight babies who are much more prone to sickness and death.”

On 28 June 2021, Tigrayan forces recaptured the provincial capital of Mekelle, forcing a unilateral ceasefire on Abiy Ahmed’s federal government, which cited the provision of essential aid as a key justification.

World Food Programme chief David Beasley said in a tweet:

Bloodshed has now begun to spill over into neighbouring Afar region with UNICEF reporting that over 200 people, of which more than 100 are children, were slaughtered at a health facility on Thursday 5 August in which crucial food supplies were also destroyed.

UNICEF executive director Henrietta Fore said more than 100,000 individuals have been newly displaced by the recent fighting, adding to the 2 million people already uprooted from their homes.

“The humanitarian catastrophe spreading across northern Ethiopia is being driven by armed conflict and can only be resolved by the parties to the conflict,” she said.

World Food Programme’s corporate response director for Tigray Michael Dunford said 90 per cent of the Tigray population will need emergency food assistance.

“People in Tigray are suffering due to lack of humanitarian support over the past month – we need to reach them now before they fall into famine,” he said.

“WFP is calling for all parties to agree to a ceasefire and guarantee an unimpeded flow of humanitarian supplies into Tigray so that we can deliver life-saving food and other emergency supplies safely before it’s too late.”

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Elliot Goodyer

Elliot is a freelance print and radio journalist with a passion for experimental radio fiction, podcasting and international affairs

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