Tigray’s Humanitarian Crisis Worsens As Starvation Spreads

One month ago, everything ran out,” Girmanesh Meles, mother to an 18-month old baby, told Al Jazeera. “It became normal to spend four days eating nothing.”

Meles is from the Ethiopian region of Tigray. Tigray has been embroiled in a civil war since November of 2020. Currently, the area faces extreme food scarcity. The United Nations described the situation in Tigray as the worst global hunger crisis in over 10 years. 

In June, the Ethiopian government established “a de facto humanitarian aid blockade” according to the UN. Access to food and aid is being weaponized by the Ethiopian government. Currently, aid organizations are struggling to increase efforts because hundreds of their trucks have gone missing. United States officials reported that less than 10% of the aid and supplies sent last month reached Tigray. 

The main hospital in Tigray’s capital, Mekelle, has received 60 children suffering from malnutrition in the last two months, including Meles’ son Haftom Hailay. Dr. Abrha Gebregzabher, a pediatrician at the hospital, told Al Jazeera that he’s seen six children die from starvation. The situation in the hospital is dire. In Meles’ case, Haftom is too weak to even cry, weighing in at just under seven pounds, all the 18-month old can do is sign in pain. 

Al Jazeera spoke with doctors and nurses at Mekelle’s hospital about the hospital’s deteriorating situation. The healthcare workers explained that they’re running out of supplies and medicine. Additionally, they explained, the hospital had run out of food for patients. 

“We don’t know how many people are dying across the region from malnutrition. We are disconnected with the health centres due to the telecommunications blackout. We could only know about patients who managed to arrive here. Only a few can make it,” Dr. Sentayhu Mesgana, deputy medical head of the hospital, told Al Jazeera. “We cannot do adult nutritional support to the general public which is very costly and ineffective given the dire situation we are in.”

Ethiopia’s acting humanitarian coordinator for the UN, Grant Leaity, said Tigray requires a minimum of 100 aid trucks a day entering the area. The international community needs to act now to prevent complete catastrophe in the region. The conflict, which has begun to spread to other parts of Ethiopia, is unlikely to end any time soon. Internationally, there needs to be a united call for both sides of the conflict to allow humanitarian organizations unimpeded access to the area. 

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