The Stream

Ethiopia: Why is starvation stalking Tigray?

On Monday, February 1 at 19:30 GMT:
The Ethiopian government in November launched a military offensive in the north of the country against the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the party that used to govern the region.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed declared the conflict over on November 28 after the army forced the TPLF from Tigray’s capital, Mekelle. But fighting continues, according to the UN, and aid agencies say a humanitarian catastrophe looms.

The UN now says it is receiving reports of “rising hunger” in Tigray, and warns there is a “dire lack of access to food.” Transport, electricity, banking and other links “have yet to be restored in much of the region”, and 78% of hospitals are non-functional. According to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network, run by the US government, parts of central and eastern Tigray are on the verge of famine, imperiling the lives of up to one million people.

According to minutes of a meeting between aid groups and government officials, obtained by the Associated Press, a Tigray administrator said that without aid “hundreds of thousands might starve to death”, and some already had.

In December, the Ethiopian government and the UN signed an agreement to allow food aid into the region, but deliveries have been scant. The federal government in Addis Ababa disputes accounts of food and medicine shortages in Tigray, and says it has been distributing essential supplies.

Now there is an added complication: Eritrea’s involvement in the conflict. Eritrean troops have been fighting on the side of Ethiopian forces, though Ethiopia’s government has denied their presence in the north of the country.

Witnesses say Eritrean soldiers have gone door to door, killing, looting, raping and committing other human rights abuses. The United States has urged foreign troops to leave Ethiopia immediately.

In a region near-destroyed by famine and war in the past, is history repeating itself in Tigray?

In this episode of The Stream, we are joined by:
Zecharias Zelalem, @ZekuZelalem

Meaza Gidey, @meazaG_

Vanessa Tsehaye, @vanessatsehaye
Horn of Africa campaigner, Amnesty International