Ethiopia’s Aid Blockade And Humanitarian Crisis

On Monday, the United Nations World Food Program released footage from northern Ethiopia highlighting the country’s massive humanitarian crisis and prevailing absence of support. The UN video shows the disbursement of grain to people in northwestern Tigray, where civilians were without aid or food for two weeks. According to the UN, about 100 trucks of supplies would be required each day to provide for the population’s needs—a goal that is made near impossible by limited reserves and heightened restrictions. The Ethiopian government has been accused of a de facto blockade of the Tigray region, where 90% of the population, or 5.2 million people, are in desperate need of assistance, as reported by Reuters. Humanitarian flights into the area have been delayed through checks and constraints; these systematic obstructions have only exacerbated the region’s famine of more than 400,000 people.

The internal conflict within Ethiopia has consumed the lives of its citizens, even when the dispute is concentrated between rebels and the state. Laetitia Bader, the Horn of Africa director for the Human Rights Watch group, stated that “people in Tigray suffered indiscriminate bombing by Ethiopian government forces, killing scores and forcing thousands to flee to Sudan or elsewhere in Ethiopia,” continuing on that “Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Amhara troops burned crops, occupied and looted homes, and committed extrajudicial killings.” Bader added that they’ve “reported on summary executions, sexual violence, pillaging, arbitrary detention, and attacks on factories, schools, and hospitals.” These violent acts and human rights violations have scarred the country, impairing its ability to make lasting improvements or move towards peace.

Ethiopia’s continued bloodshed has left people struggling to survive—the actions of the government have perpetrated national instability and fragility. Order and tranquility cannot be achieved while Ethiopian leadership withholds and limits humanitarian aid and commits human rights abuses. Although the government is not the conflict’s sole perpetrator, their actions have not encouraged nonviolence or a resolution. Instead, blocking millions of people from accessing food and assistance is a serious offense, as is the bombing, looting, and killing of citizens that has been perpetrated by all actors. Casualty figures from Belgium’s University of Ghent estimate the number of massacres in Ethiopia as a result of this fighting to be around 230, with upwards of 10,000 deaths. An effective solution must be discovered and employed, as further violence will tear the country apart.

This national conflict first began back in November of 2020, after confrontations between the Ethiopian army and supporters of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. Tigrayan rebels attacked a state military base, sparking a battle that has since evolved into a civil war. Countless civilians have been caught in the crossfire, with thousands dead and many more forced to leave their homes. The UN Refugee Agency has stated that there are over 46,000 refugees that have crossed the border into neighboring Sudan, while another 1.7 million have become internally displaced. Fuel, electricity, cash, and communications are all among the state systems that have been rendered ineffective from the fighting. Furthermore, the Ethiopian government has called upon civilians to participate in the war, including youths. In only ten months, the situation has become a humanitarian disaster, with violence and fear plaguing the country.

Improving Ethiopia’s civil environment and ending the violence must be a mutual effort between the government and other accountable actors. While influential institutions and organizations have worked to remedy the plight, the response has been lacking; both the United Nations and the United States have provided assistance with limited success. This deficient engagement only encourages an outcome involving a state collapse and fighting that will leave Ethiopia straining to reconstruct. In order for there to be lasting peace, all sides must engage in dialogue to, at the bare minimum, open the country to the distribution of humanitarian aid. Ethiopia’s current instability leaves the nation vulnerable; it cannot maintain this conflict, for its continuation is detrimental to both the present and the future of the Ethiopian populace.