Calls for the adoption of a ceasefire in Ethiopia’s northern province of Tigray have intensified, with the prospect of famine steadily becoming a reality for millions in the region.
Since the eruption of a brutal civil war in November 2020, the lives of many Tigrayans have been altered permanently; thousands have been killed, millions displaced and now many are experiencing acute food insecurity.
A total of 5.2 million people – 91% of Tigray’s population – are in need of emergency food assistance according to the World Food Programme (WFP). The agency has provided assistance to over 1 million people since March 2021, but has now appealed for $203m in order to scale up its response and ensure that widespread famine is avoided.
The provision of funding is not the only prerequisite for enhanced humanitarian support for Tigrayans, however. Widespread fighting has made much of the region inaccessible to UN agencies, with “at least 31 missions by mobile health, nutrition and water teams supported by UNICEF and partners” blocked since the beginning of April 2021.
In a statement released on their twitter, the US embassy in Addis Ababa said that:
“The U.S. calls for a cessation of hostilities by all conflict parties and unfettered humanitarian access so that aid can flow and famine can be averted.”
Nick Dyer, UK Special Envoy for Famine Prevention and Humanitarian Affairs, echoed this sentiment, stating that:
“Only a break in the fighting NOW could avert the risk of famine.The United Kingdom calls for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire by all conflict parties so that planting & other vital agricultural activities can commence.”
Concerns also remain with regard to the situation of many vulnerable groups in Tigray. Child rights violations have reportedly shown no signs of abating, with UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore stating that:
“Children are paying a terrible price for this conflict. UNICEF calls on all parties to respect their fundamental obligation to enable unimpeded and sustained access to civilians in need of assistance, especially for children”
The conflict has also seen women and girls in Tigray subjected to “appalling acts of sexual violence”. The risk of gender-based violence and abuse is magnified in refugee camps and displacement sites and the lack of security and fear of reprisals leaves many unable to receive adequate care.
An immediate ceasefire must be imposed in order to avert the approaching famine. The relevant parties must do all they can to ensure that the provision of humanitarian assistance is unimpeded and the rights of Tigrayans are not violated.