UN demands Ethiopia ends hunger crisis

A one-year-old malnourished child at a hospital in Ethiopia

For months, the United Nations has warned of famine in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, calling it the world’s worst hunger crisis in a decade. Source: AP.

Now internal documents and witness accounts reveal the first starvation deaths since Ethiopia’s government in June imposed what the UN calls “a de facto humanitarian aid blockade.”

Forced starvation is the latest chapter in a conflict where ethnic Tigrayans in Ethiopia's north have been massacred, gang-raped and expelled. Months after crops were burned and communities stripped bare, a new kind of death has set in.

“You are killing people,” Hayelom Kebede, the former director of Tigray’s flagship Ayder Referral Hospital, recalled telling Ethiopia’s health ministry in a phone call this month. “They said, ‘Yeah, OK, we’ll forward it to the prime minister.’ What can I do? I just cry.”

He shared with AP photos of some of the 50 children receiving “very intensive care” because of malnutrition, the first such images to emerge from Tigray in months. In one, a small child with startled-looking eyes stares straight into the camera, a feeding tube in his nose, a protective amulet lying in the pronounced hollow of his throat.

Medicines have almost run out, and hospital staffers haven’t been paid since June, Hayelom said. Conditions elsewhere for Tigray’s 6 million people are often worse.

The blockade and the starvation that comes with it mark a new phase in the 10-month war between Tigray forces and the Ethiopian Government, along with its allies.

“It is a day-to-day reality to see human sufferings, starvation,” the Catholic bishop of Adigrat, Abune Tesfaselassie Medhin, wrote in a September 3 appealing to partners overseas for help and warning of catastrophe ahead.


‘I just cry’: Dying of hunger in Ethiopia’s blockaded Tigray (By Cara Anna, AP via Crux)

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