Millions Face Hunger Crisis as Conflict Engulfs Northern Ethiopia

GENEVA - The World Food Program warns that emergency food needs in northern Ethiopia are increasing, as conflict spills beyond the embattled Tigray region into neighboring Afar and Amhara provinces.

The agency reports that up to 7 million people are acutely short of food and are facing a hunger crisis. They include more than 5.2 million people in Tigray who are dependent on U.N. food aid for survival. Additionally, the World Food Program reports the conflict, which has now engulfed the entire region, has thrust 1.7 million more people into hunger.

This month, WFP has begun delivering emergency food assistance to communities in Ethiopia’s northern region and says it plans to reach 530,000 people in Afar and 250,000 in Amhara with food aid.

Meanwhile in Tigray, WFP spokesman Tomson Phiri says the situation continues to deteriorate. He says aid agencies are struggling to meet the urgent food needs of more than 5 million people across the war-torn region.

"In fact, WFP food stocks had been almost entirely depleted until two days ago when the first convoy in over two weeks entered the region,” said Phiri. "The WFP-led convoy of over 100 trucks carried 3,500 metric tons of food and other life-saving cargo, including fuel, as well as health and shelter items.”

Phiri says WFP has only managed to get 355 trucks into the region since mid-July. While this sounds like much, he says it is not. He says 355 trucks represents less than 10 percent of the supplies needed. He says 100 trucks must enter Tigray every day to meet people’s food requirements.

He says trucks get stuck in Afar because of bureaucratic delays and difficulties in passing checkpoints. He says some trucks also have been attacked and looted by people in local communities.

"Apart from the escalating fighting that is in the north of the country, food security for millions across the whole of Ethiopia is also under threat due to an unprecedented funding gap for WFP activities in the country,” said Phiri.

WFP is calling for $426 million to expand its emergency food operation to meet the needs of up to 12 million people throughout Ethiopia this year. The agency warns it will be forced to cut rations for people in northern Ethiopia if it does not receive the extra funding,

It says it might have to stop distributing food to about 4 million people in Tigray, Afar and Amhara in the coming months if it runs out of money.

November 4 will mark a year since the Ethiopian government began its military offensive to wrest control of the Tigray region from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.

Source: Voice of America