Jun 10, 2021 - World

UN: Famine plagues more than 350,000 Ethiopians in Tigray

Picture of a child in Tigray

A child sits on his bed at the Ayder Referral Hospital in in the Tigray capital Mekele on February 25, after being injured during a fight in Tigray with the Tigray People's Liberation Front. Photo: EDUARDO SOTERAS/AFP via Getty Images

More than 350,000 people in Ethiopia's war-torn Tigray are experiencing "catastrophic" famine, with millions more at risk, according to the United Nations.

Why it matters: It is the highest number of people living in famine since 2011, when around 250,000 people died of hunger in Somalia, per a report from the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification — responsible for evaluating food insecurity around the world.

Details: The IPC system has placed parts of the Tigray region in "IPC 5" status — its most severe. The agency states that in those locations "[s]tarvation, death, destitution, and extremely critical acute malnutrition levels are evident."

  • Several UN agencies estimate that more than 5.5 million people in Tigray and some surrounding areas are facing high levels of acute food insecurity. Of these, 2 million people are in "IPC 4," suffering from high malnutrition that could turn to starvation.

What they're saying: "The brutal reality for our staff in Tigray is that for every family we reach with life-saving food, there are countless more, especially in rural areas, whom we cannot reach," said David Beasley, executive director of the UN World Food Programme.

  • "We have appealed for humanitarian access but are still being blocked by armed groups. The ability of people in Tigray to access vital services and for WFP to reach them with food assistance is essential to avoid a catastrophe," he added.
  • "[W]ithout humanitarian access to scale up our response, an estimated 33,000 severely malnourished children in currently inaccessible areas in Tigray are at high risk of death. The world cannot permit that to happen," said Henrietta Fore, executive director of UNICEF.

Catch up quick: Fighting between the Ethiopian government and the region's former ruling party, the Tigray People's Liberation Front, started last November. "The violence has killed thousands of civilians and forced more than 2 million from their homes in the mountainous region," Reuters writes.

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