STORY: TIGRAY MALNUTRITION
SOURCE: UNTV CH
ASPECT RATIO: 16:9
DATELINE: 31 JULY 2021, GENEVA, SWITZERLAND
More than 100,000 children in Tigray, Ethiopia, could suffer from life-threatening severe acute malnutrition in the next 12 months, a 10-fold jump over average annual levels, UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) said on Friday.
The development comes as UNICEF announced that it had recently reached areas of Tigray that were previously inaccessible owing to insecurity linked to nearly nine months of conflict between Government forces and those loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.
UNICEF spokesperson Marixie Mercado told a UN briefing in Geneva that humanitarians’ worst fears about the health and wellbeing of children have been confirmed.
Assessments also indicate that 47 per cent of pregnant and breastfeeding women are acutely malnourished, suggesting that they could face more pregnancy-related complications, an increased risk of maternal death during childbirth and the delivery of low-birthweight babies, who are much more prone to sickness and death.
"We need unfettered access into Tigray and across the region, in order to provide support children and women urgently need," she said.
Meanwhile, World Food Programme (WFP) spokesperson Tomson Phiri, said that a convoy of more than 200 trucks was on its way to Tigray, but “this is a drop in the ocean.” At least 100 trucks are needed every day “if we are to stand a chance to reverse the catastrophic situation,” he said.
The United Nations needs “critical communications equipment and longer-term visas for NGO staff” for its aid operation in Tigray, UN humanitarian coordination office (OCHA) spokesperson Jens Laerke said, in an appeal to the Ethiopian Government.
Speaking of her own recent experience in the region, Ms. Mercado noted that one young female survivor of sexual assault told her that “she watched her grandmother get killed, she was raped by several men and she watched her nine month old baby being tossed around by other men”.
A doctor at a UNICEF supported referral centre in Mekelle told her that he had been struck by the fact that in many cases it was not the assault itself, but rather the psychological damage it inflicts on children, women and health staff, that was most difficult to bear.