"Nearly 400 Ethiopians Die of Starvation in Tigray and Amhara Regions"

The national ombudsman of Ethiopia revealed on Tuesday that nearly 400 people have died of starvation in the Tigray and Amhara regions in recent months, marking a rare admission of hunger-related deaths by a federal body.

Local officials had previously reported starvation deaths in their districts, but the federal government had denied these reports as “completely wrong.”

Experts from Ethiopia’s ombudsman office were sent to the regions, which are facing drought and the aftermath of a devastating civil war that officially ended 14 months ago. Their investigation concluded that 351 people died of hunger in Tigray in the past six months, with an additional 44 deaths in Amhara.

Despite the dire situation, only a small percentage of needy people in Tigray are receiving food aid. A memo from the Tigray Food Cluster, a group of aid agencies co-chaired by the U.N.’s World Food Program and Ethiopian officials, revealed that by January 21, only 14% of the 3.2 million people targeted for food aid had received assistance.

The memo urged humanitarian groups to scale up their operations immediately, warning of severe food insecurity and malnutrition during the lean season, with the potential loss of vulnerable individuals in the region.

The U.N. and the U.S. had paused food aid to Tigray in mid-March last year due to a large-scale theft of humanitarian grain. Although the pause was lifted in December after reforms were implemented to prevent theft, Tigray authorities claim that food is still not reaching those in need.

Technical issues with the new system, which includes GPS trackers on food trucks and QR codes on ration cards, have hampered aid delivery. Additionally, aid agencies are struggling with a lack of funds.

The situation is exacerbated by conflict, a tanking economy, and a multi-year drought that has devastated several regions of Ethiopia. Malnutrition rates among children in parts of the country are alarmingly high, with some areas experiencing rates as high as 47%.

Tigray, which was the epicenter of a devastating two-year civil war, faces additional challenges due to persistent insecurity and a poor harvest. The region’s authorities have warned of an impending famine unless the aid response is immediately scaled up.

Despite these warnings, Ethiopia’s federal government denies the existence of a large hunger crisis, dismissing reports as “inaccurate” and accusing those raising concerns of “politicizing the crisis.”

Piers Potter


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