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Famine hits 350,000 Ethiopians, worst for any country in a decade

Famine has afflicted at least 350,000 people in conflict-ravaged northern Ethiopia’s Tigray region, a famine calamity more severe than anywhere else in the world, the United Nations and organizations said Thursday. international humanitarian organizations.

With their joint announcement, aid officials for the first time described the unfolding crisis in Tigray as a famine and specified the number of people who suffer from it. They had warned for weeks of impending disaster due to conflict in Ethiopia, the most populous country in the Horn of Africa.

“Alarming new data today confirmed the scale of the hunger emergency in Tigray,” said David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Program, the United Nations anti-hunger agency, in a statement.

Mark Lowcock, the top United Nations humanitarian emergencies official, told a web meeting of aid officials and diplomats that the number of people affected by famine was “higher than anywhere in the world. world “and was the worst of all countries since the 2011 famine gripped neighboring Somalia.

Mr Lowcock said the data “portrays a very, very extreme situation”, requiring a generous donor response and more fluid humanitarian access to areas in Tigray which he said have been blocked by Ethiopian forces and their allies from. neighboring Eritrea.

“It’s going to get worse,” said Mr. Lowcock, recalling the 1980s famine in Ethiopia which caused an estimated 1 million deaths and showed the horrors of mass starvation with jarring images on television.

The new famine data came from the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification, a system used by aid agencies and governments to determine the extent of a food crisis. The system is based on a five-phase food insecurity scale – phase 1 is minimal and phase 5 is famine. Data showed that of the 5.5 million people facing food insecurity in Tigray and neighboring areas in May and June, 350,000 were now in phase 5.

“This severe crisis results from the cascading effects of the conflict, including displacement of people, restrictions on movement, limited humanitarian access, loss of crops and livelihood assets, and dysfunctional or non-existent markets,” said a summary. Datas.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, US Ambassador to the United Nations, who attended the web meeting, said that “the very place that woke the modern world to the scourge of hunger” ago a four decades was in danger of recurring.

“We can’t make the same mistake twice,” she said. “We cannot let Ethiopia starve.

The Tigray conflict erupted last November. when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and neighboring Eritrea ordered their military forces to enter the region to crush Mr. Abiy’s political rivals and strengthen his control.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Abiy said he was confident the operation would only last a few weeks, but it turned into a quagmire that severely tarnished his image. Ethiopian and Eritrean troops have been accused of ethnic cleansing, massacres and other atrocities in Tigray which constitute war crimes.

Last month, a sign of growing American frustration with Mr Abiy’s government, the United States announced punitive restrictions on some Ethiopian officials, an unusual move that drew a reprimand from the ministry Ethiopian Foreign Minister.

Ms Thomas-Greenfield, who was once a senior State Department official on Africa, expressed frustration on Thursday that the United Nations Security Council has yet to hold a public meeting on the Ethiopian crisis, and again less taken action. She attributed the lack of response to “obstacles placed before us by some members of the Council” – apparently a reference to the positions of China and Russia that the Ethiopian crisis is an internal affair.

Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council and a former senior UN humanitarian official, who also participated in the web meeting, said free access to Tigray for aid workers was essential. “It’s not rocket science,” he said, as he also voiced criticism of the Security Council’s inaction.

“I would like the Security Council to act like a Security Council,” he said.

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