More than 90 % of Tigray’s population in need of emergency food assistance due to the conflict, says UN World Food Programme
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has provided emergency food assistance to over 1 million people since it started its distribution in March in north-western and Southern zones of Tigray region, Ethiopia’s troubled north.
“A total of 5,2 million people, equivalent to 91 % of Tigray’s population, need emergency food assistance due to the conflict”, WFP’s spokesperson Tomson Phiri today told reporters at the United Nations in Geneva. He added that “we are deeply concerned at the number of people we see in need of nutrition support and emergency food assistance”.
Fighting started in November 2020 when Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops into Tigray to disarm leaders of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the region’s former ruling party in response to TPLF attacks on federal army camps. More than six months later, the armed conflict continues. Aid agencies warn of a potential humanitarian catastrophe.
“Conflict has indeed interrupted or delayed some food distributions”, said WFP’s Tomson Phiri. “WFP is working closely with partners, with local leaders, and communities to improve access and deliver the life-saving food and nutrition support to end growing hunger in Tigray”.
This week, WFP kicked off a second six-week round of emergency food assistance, starting in Korem and Ofla, two of the five new districts in Southern zone recently added to WFP’s operational areas.
“Insecurity is challenging the ability of most emergency responders to reach people who are in need”, Phiri said. “A ceasefire and unimpeded access are vital not only for WFP but also for all its partners in Tigray to reach all areas and all people who are desperately in need of life-saving support”.
Much of Tigray still remains inaccessible to humanitarian workers. According to Tomson Phiri “access especially in rural areas remains the primary challenge. The WFP has delivered 315 emergency nutrition rations to children and women since February in 31 districts. In May, WFP reached almost 100, 000 children and pregnant or nursing women in all zones except for western”.
UNICEF said today that “the magnitude and gravity of child rights violations taking place across Tigray show no sign of abating, nearly seven months since fighting broke out in northern Ethiopia”. According to UNICEF, over 6,000 unaccompanied or separated children have so far been identified and registered for protection and assistance. Women and girls are still being subjected to appalling acts of sexual violence.
With the ongoing insecurity, WFP is seeing rising levels of malnourished women and children. “According to the nutrition cluster, which is a grouping of agencies who are working in nutrition, almost half of the pregnant or nursing mothers in 53 villages were either moderately or acutely malnourished”, Phiri said. “Almost a quarter of all children who were screened were found to be malnourished”.
The WFP has appealed for $203 million to continue to step up its response in Tigray to save lives through to the end of the year.