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350,000 in the face of famine, 2 million a stone’s throw away

UNITED NATIONS (PA) – A report released Thursday warns that more than 350,000 people in Ethiopia’s Tigray province are facing famine and more than 2 million are just one step away, blaming the dire situation on conflict in course that has forced hundreds of thousands to flee, limited humanitarian access and loss of crops and income.

The report says the 350,000 people represent the largest number of people facing famine since the 2011 famine in Somalia.

He predicts that between July and September, the number of people facing famine will rise to more than 400,000.

The integrated classification of the food security phase known as the IPC, which is a global partnership of 15 UN agencies and international humanitarian organizations, prepared the report. It uses five categories of food security ranging from people who have enough to eat to those facing a “humanitarian famine disaster”.

In this worst category facing more than 350,000 people in Tigray, at least 20% of households face a total lack of food “and starvation, death and destitution are evident”. In addition, acute malnutrition is evident in more than 30% of households, and starvation deaths exceed two people per 1,000 inhabitants every day.

The report says more than 2 million Tigrayans are just a step below the “humanitarian emergency” category characterized by extreme gaps in food consumption, acute malnutrition and excess mortality in at least 20% of households. And over 3 million Tigrayans in the “crisis” category are just below.

UN humanitarian aid chief Mark Lowcock told a high-level virtual meeting on the humanitarian emergency in Tigray hosted by the United States and the European Union on Thursday that “there is currently has a famine “in the area, and warned that” it will get worse. . “

But Lowcock told representatives of the Group of Seven major industrialized countries and the EU that “the worst can still be avoided” if steps are taken to help Tigray now.

He said it was crucial to prevent a repeat of the 1984 famine in Ethiopia, which “would have far-reaching and lasting ramifications.”

“My message is: don’t go,” Lowcock said.

David Beasley, head of the United Nations World Food Program, the world’s largest humanitarian organization, called the new data “alarming” and said the lack of data from West Tigray in the analysis was ” deeply concerning “. Forces from the neighboring Amhara region reportedly attacked civilians and took control of areas in western Tigray.

WFP mounted an emergency operation and increased food distributions to reach 1.4 million people, Beasley said, “but that’s barely half the number we should be reaching,” and other agencies are also in difficulty.

Countless people, especially in rural areas, cannot be reached because armed groups are blocking access, he said.

The largely agricultural region of Tigray, which has a population of around 5 million, already had a food security problem amid a desert locust outbreak when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced on November 4 fighting between his forces and those of the rebel regional government. Tigray’s rulers dominated Ethiopia for nearly three decades, but were sidelined after Abiy introduced reforms that won him the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019.

No one knows how many thousands of civilians or combatants were killed. More than 50,000 have fled to neighboring Sudan. Although Abiy declared victory at the end of November, the Ethiopian army and allied fighters remain active, including troops from neighboring Eritrea, a bitter enemy of the now fugitive officials who once ruled Tigray, despite claims by Ethiopia and Eritrea that they were leaving.

Beasley said WFP teams report that in 53 villages they visited, 50 percent of the mothers and almost a quarter of the children they screened were malnourished, and without emergency food, “many of them will die “.

He said three things were needed to prevent hunger from killing millions in Tigray: “a ceasefire, unhindered access for WFP and its partners to all regions, and the money to expand. our operations to respond to the growing number of people in desperate need of emergency food. assistance.”

Oxfam, one of the partners, echoed its call for an end to the violence, unconditional and safe access to all areas for aid workers and funds for the appeal for $ 853 million from the United Nations for northern Ethiopia.

Emily Farr, Oxfam’s emergency food security adviser, said that after the drought, locusts, loss of property, livestock and food stocks, “the tensions now plaguing Local economies and livelihoods caused by the COVID-19 pandemic “are” potentially the last straw for many “in Tigray.

US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the US-EU meeting that the US is the largest bilateral donor to Ethiopia for the current humanitarian response which is “woefully underfunded” and has requested funding additional.

“We cannot make the same mistake twice,” she said, referring to the famine of 1984. “We cannot let Ethiopia starve to death. We must act now. “

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