Urgent call to address humanitarian crisis in Tigray as hunger and displacement persist

By our staff reporter

In a recent report titled “Scars of War and Deprivation: An Urgent Call to Reverse Tigray’s Humanitarian Crisis,” alarming details have emerged regarding the ongoing crisis in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. The report highlights the dire situation faced by the population, urging immediate action to address the escalating humanitarian crisis.

Despite the declaration of peace between the Federal Ethiopia Government and Tigray authorities over a year ago, the region continues to grapple with widespread hunger and displacement. The combination of a two-year-long siege during the war, a severe drought, and a suspension of food aid to combat corruption has plunged many into a state of crisis. Vulnerable groups, including mothers who have survived gang rape, are now left wondering how they will feed their children instead of receiving the necessary physical and mental healing they require.

The conflict in Tigray, which began in November 2020, has resulted in an estimated death toll of over 600,000 people and the displacement of nearly 3 million. Human rights violations and sexual violence have left lasting scars on the population. Despite the cessation of hostilities agreement, Eritrean troops, Amhara forces, and other armed groups have yet to fully withdraw from western and southern parts of Tigray, hindering the return of displaced individuals to their homes.

Adding to the crisis, in 2023, the United States government temporarily paused its food assistance program due to widespread corruption and aid diversion by Ethiopian government and regional officials. While the decision aimed to address these issues, it exacerbated the already catastrophic situation for millions of Ethiopians who rely on food aid. Although food assistance has gradually resumed, it is unable to keep pace with the growing hunger, with reports indicating that only 14 percent of the targeted population had received aid by January 2024, and child malnutrition rates reaching 26.5 percent.

The most vulnerable groups affected by the food shortages are Tigray’s internally displaced people, particularly women, children, and the elderly. Families are resorting to feeding on cattle roots, and children are forced to sleep longer to alleviate hunger pangs. Chronic undernutrition, reflected in high levels of stunting and malnourished pregnant and lactating women, has become prevalent, with 60 percent of households experiencing moderate or severe hunger.

During a recent visit to the region, Refugees International found that women bore the brunt of the crisis, grappling with hunger, sexual violence, and displacement simultaneously. Many displaced households are led by women, as male family members were killed or remain missing. While some victims of sexual violence can access treatment, damaged or non-operational health facilities and limited resources hinder their recovery. The overlapping challenges of unaddressed sexual violence, worsening hunger, and displacement pose significant risks to the well-being and recovery of IDP women in Tigray.

The report emphasizes the responsibility of the Ethiopian government to protect its population, ensure access to basic rights, and uphold commitments made in the peace agreement. It calls for peace to be maintained, the withdrawal of armed groups from Tigray, and the restoration of essential services and infrastructure. Furthermore, it urges the international community to increase its response and support for Tigray, emphasizing the need for increased aid, accountability for atrocities, and the inclusion of local actors in relief efforts.

The situation in Tigray serves as a stark reminder of the urgent need for improved responses and solutions to internal displacement caused by both conflict and climate-related issues. The report concludes by offering recommendations to the United States, aid organizations, and the Ethiopian government, urging immediate action to alleviate the suffering of Tigray’s population and prevent further destabilization of the region.

As the international community grapples with the lack of action in Tigray, the report serves as a wake-up call to address the pressing humanitarian crisis and prevent further loss of life and human suffering in the region.

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