Abiy Ahmed, Ethiopian Prime Minister and Chairman of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) launched his own Prosperity Party in 2019, joining the EPRDF alliance and a number of other opposition groups to address the issue of long standing ethnic federation and ethnic nationalism in Ethiopian politics. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Tigray (TPLF), which had ruled Ethiopia for 27 years, was furious. After the administration postponed the elections due to COVID-19, forces in Tigray rebelled and conflict erupted. As the situation deteriorated, the central government cut off relations with Tigray.
Both sides have been accused of committing heinous war crimes. Around 10,000 civilians have been killed in the past three months, and war rape has become commonplace. On November 4, 2020, the Ethiopian government launched an operation to overthrow the TPLF when the TPLF occupied Mekelle, the capital of Tigray. The government established a general embargo on Tigray, making it difficult to obtain supplies or money for the TPLF. As a result, a serious humanitarian catastrophe began. Banks remained closed, all communications with Tigray were cut and fuel prohibited from entering the region.
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A humanitarian catastrophe is brewing
About two million refugees have fled Tigray and the problem is expected to worsen due to lack of food and fear of the massacre. According to a survey, 1.769 million people in Tigray are in phase 4 (emergency), with 353,000 others in phase 5 (disaster), a technical term for “famine”. Because the Ethiopian government would complain, the IPC avoided using the word because it is very politically charged. Hunger-related deaths in large numbers are inevitable, which is why these data hide a tragic human tragedy. A malnourished body consumes its own organs to muster enough energy to sustain life, so starvation is a cruel way to die.
According to the latest figures from Tigray, 300,000 children are affected. Survey teams had to rely on extrapolation from limited data as they could not reach all locations. The catastrophic shortage of aid for millions of people trapped in the region, according to the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), far exceeds the daring and risky efforts of aid workers in all sectors ” lives â(food, health, water and sanitation, nutrition and shelter).
The UN has accused the Ethiopian government of stopping aid delivery to Tigray, warning millions of people are at risk. The UN has also been criticized for evacuating aid workers from Tigray. Armed police turned back a UN team trying to recover Tigray workers in August, according to a UN report. Nearly two dozen aid workers were killed, including several who were killed while distributing food. Aid workers are sometimes only allowed to eat a limited amount of their own food. The two opposition parties blame each other.
Administration blamed Tigray forces for delays in aid distribution
The UN said on November 9, 2021 that Ethiopian authorities arrested 16 UN staff and dozens of drivers who were believed to be carrying food aid in the rebel-held Tigray region, adding to the relationship organizational tensions with a government embroiled in a civil war. and in the face of a growing threat of famine.
In short, the current situation in Ethiopia adds to a cycle of concern that will keep the vehicle of humanitarian crises moving for months or worse, years. Internal conflicts can affect a country more than external pressures, as demonstrated by the man-made humanitarian catastrophe in Tigray. The World Peace Foundation has proposed a number of solutions to prevent future famines in Tigray. However, the emphasis is on stopping active hostilities and focusing on tasks essential to the survival of the civilian population. Before it is too late, the Ethiopian government and all parties to the conflict must fulfill their obligations to protect civilians and provide unrestricted humanitarian assistance to those in desperate need.
To avoid the coming famine, a peace accord and the complete withdrawal of Eritrean and Amhara forces from Tigray are essential. This is the second humanitarian disaster in Ethiopia. A famine hit northern Ethiopia in 1984-85, killing an estimated 2 million people from hunger and other diseases. It is imperative that the atrocities of the past do not happen again. To avoid a repeat of one of the worst humanitarian tragedies in recent memory, a comprehensive national discourse involving all major political actors must be initiated as soon as possible and the international community must play its role of mediator. Ethiopia is essential to the stability of the Horn, as it is the second most populous country in Africa.
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The struggle can exacerbate ethnic tensions, potentially fragmenting the country. Accordingly, the total ignorance of the international community of the tragic and rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation in Tigray is a cause for grave concern. As US Special Envoy Jeff Feltman warned “we shouldn’t wait to count the graves.” It is no longer a question of whether a famine will occur; rather, it is about how many people would die if immediate action is not taken.
The author is a research intern at the Institute for Strategic Studies in Islamabad. The opinions expressed in the article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.