Some 350,000 people in Tigray region in famine conditions

Some 350,000 people in Ethiopia’s Tigray region living through acute famine, according to UN
2 min read
10 June, 2021
Some 350,000 people in Ethiopia’s Tigray region are living in acute famine conditions according to an unpublished UN document. The Ethiopian government disputes this analysis.
Around two million people have been displaced, killed and subjected to physical and sexual abuse since the conflict started [Getty]

A humanitarian committee led by the United Nations estimates that around 350,000 people in Ethiopia’s Tigray region are living in acute famine, according to an internal UN document. 

The unpublished analysis said that Phase 5 famine conditions, the highest phase in the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), exist in northern Ethiopia. This phase is attributed when an area has at least 20 percent of households facing an extreme lack of food and two people for every 10,000 die each day due to starvation, malnutrition or disease. 

The Ethiopian government has disputed the committee’s analysis, questioning the survey methods, the group’s transparency and claiming there was not enough consultation with relevant authorities, according to Reuters

"People need to wake up," said Mark Lowcock, a UN aid chief who chairs the committee conducting the analysis on food insecurity. "The international community needs to really step up, including through the provision of money." 

Currently, Ethiopia is one of the highest recipients of UK aid, with a total of £113 million ($159.3m) donated by the UK in 2021/2022, according to the government’s development tracker. However, the government plans to slash UK aid from 0.7% to 0.5% of the UK’s gross national income, amounting to around £4 billion ($5.6bn) being redirected from the overseas development budget. 

Lowcock said there is a risk that hundreds of thousands of people or more will die from food shortages.

"This now has horrible echoes of the colossal tragedy in Ethiopia in 1984," he said, referring to the famine in which around two million Africans died of starvation or famine-related ailments, almost half of them in Ethiopia. 

Ethiopia’s embassy in London said in a statement on Saturday that the government "takes its responsibility to end the current suffering of the people of Tigray very seriously and has so far made a concerted effort to comprehensively respond to the humanitarian needs on the ground, in coordination with local and international partners." 

Food shortages follow months of fighting in the area between Ethiopian forces and Tigray fighters linked to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). 

The fighting has led to almost two million people being displaced, killed and subjected to physical and sexual violence, according to Lowcock.