Oxfam warns of growing hunger crisis in Tigray and Amhara regions as families resort to extreme measures to survive
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After two years of conflict, erratic rainfall during the planting season is threatening to plunge the north of the country into deeper humanitarian catastrophe, Oxfam has warned today.
The aid agency says families are resorting to increasingly desperate measures to survive. Hareyat (50), a mother sheltering in a school with her four daughters and other displaced people, said:
“We are hungry, our children have nothing to eat sometimes for an entire day. The hunger is so unbearable that mothers are forcing their children to sleep for longer hours to avoid hunger pains since there is nothing to feed them. Mothers are also having to feed their children roots meant for animals in order to survive. Pregnant women and those with small babies are suffering.”
According to the national Ombudsman in the Tigray and Amhara regions, nearly 400 people - mostly children and elderly - have already died of starvation in the last six months. In Tigray 3.5 million people are in urgent need of food assistance with one million people facing acute hunger. Unless humanitarian efforts are drastically scaled-up, many in the region could face starvation.
Oxfam in Ethiopia’s Country Director Gezahegn Kebede said: “This is only the tip of the iceberg, millions more people are having to resort to unimaginable ways to stave off hunger and find their next meal. It is morally and politically bankrupt to watch people starve.”
Despite a ceasefire between the Ethiopian government and Tigray forces in November 2022, the ongoing conflict in parts of the Amhara region have forced over 1.55 million people to flee their homes, leaving a total of 9.4 million people – or one in three people in northern Ethiopia – in extreme hunger.
Food shortages are at critical level as millions face extreme challenges accessing food in parts of eastern, southern, and central Tigray, and more people are expected to follow from now to May, according to FEWSNET.
The drought, a shortage of seeds and an invasion of desert locusts at the end of last year, has halved the harvest from the planned 1.32 million hectare to 660,000 hectares. Even worse, of the reduced harvest, at least 132,000 hectares of crops have died, and tens of thousands of livestock have perished during the current dry season. If the rainy season is delayed further, millions of people will be pushed into further destitution.
The drop in production of crops has caused food prices to surge to a five-year-high and resulted in a shortage of seasonal farming work, making food unaffordable for millions of people.
Despite being one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, the humanitarian response in Northern Ethiopia remains underfunded. Only 34% of the $4 billion UN appeal for Ethiopia last year was funded.
USAID and WFP suspended food aid for six months, in response to allegations of food diversion in 2023, which has deteriorated food security, cutting the lifeline of emergency food supplies to millions of people displaced by conflict and climate change.
Kebede said: “Even though aid has resumed, it’s only a drop in the desert given the immensity of the needs. Without an urgent and major inflow of aid and increased humanitarian efforts by donors, the lives of many more people are at risk.”
Oxfam GB Media Unit – email@example.com, 07748 761999
Note to editors
- Food insecurity in Ethiopia is determined by the Humanitarian Response Plan which estimates that in 2023, 20.1 million people were experiencing food insecurity.
- The UN appeal for Ethiopia is only 34% $1.3bn funded out of the of the total US$4 billion needed in 2023.
- The UN World Food Programme and USAID announced the immediate temporary suspension of food assistance for from April to December 2023.
- Ethiopia Acute Food Insecurity - Ethiopia | FEWS NET
- Oxfam has been responding to the humanitarian needs of the people in Tigray, reaching more than 400,000 people, through Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), food assistance and protection.
- Ethiopia hosts over 4 million internally displaced people (IDP) – one of the highest IDP population in the world, with over 1million of those IDP’s being from Tigray.