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Many in Tigray: 'Extreme Lack of Food' 01/28 06:11


   NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) -- More than a third of the people in Ethiopia's 
embattled Tigray region "are suffering an extreme lack of food," the United 
Nations World Food Program said in a new assessment of a region under a 
months-long government blockade.

   "Families are exhausting all means to feed themselves, with three-quarters 
of the population using extreme coping strategies to survive," the WFP said in 
its report released Friday, noting increases in begging and relying on just one 
meal a day. It called for all parties in Ethiopia's war to agree to a 
humanitarian cease-fire and "formally agreed transport corridors" for aid after 
15 months of war.

   The U.N. said no aid convoy has entered the Tigray region of some 6 million 
people since mid-December. Separately, the U.N. humanitarian agency said less 
than 10% of the needed supplies, including medicines and fuel, have entered 
Tigray since mid-July. All international NGOs operating in Tigray have depleted 
their fuel, "with their staff delivering the little remaining humanitarian 
supplies and services on foot, where possible," the agency said in its Friday 

   Ethiopia's government has been wary of allowing aid to fall into the hands 
of the Tigray forces who once dominated the national government and have been 
battling the current government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed since November 
2020. The government in part has blamed problems with aid delivery on 
insecurity it says is caused by Tigray forces, including new fighting in the 
neighboring Afar region near the only approved road corridor for aid.

   Aid workers, however, also blame bureaucratic obstacles including intrusive 
personal searches and confiscation of items including personal medications 
before visits to Tigray. The new WFP report, based on face-to-face interviews 
with more than 980 households across accessible parts of Tigray, cited 
"extraordinary operation challenges."

   The war has shifted in recent weeks, with the Tigray forces retreating into 
their region after attempting to advance on the capital, Addis Ababa, and 
Ethiopia's military saying it would not pursue them further. That opened the 
way for fresh mediation efforts by the United States and the African Union, 
with humanitarian access a key goal.

   Aid has begun reaching people in the Amhara and Afar regions after Tigray 
forces' incursions there displaced hundreds of thousands. But the new WFP 
report said that some 9 million people need food assistance across the three 
war-affected regions.

   Ethiopia's foreign ministry this week said it was working with aid partners 
to facilitate daily cargo flights to Tigray "to transport much-needed medicines 
and supplies." It is not clear when the daily flights will begin, though the 
International Committee of the Red Cross on Wednesday announced that it had 
made its first delivery of medical supplies to Tigray since September, calling 
it "a huge relief." A second flight followed on Thursday.

   The U.N. has said time is running out. "Aid organizations have warned that 
operations could cease completely by the end of February in Tigray," U.N. 
spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters on Thursday.

   Tigray's health bureau this week reported that nearly 1,500 people died of 
malnutrition in just part of the region over a four-month period last year, 
including more than 350 young children. It cited more than 5,000 
blockade-related deaths in all from hunger and disease in the largest official 
death toll yet associated with the country's war.

   Ethiopia's government has sought to restrict reporting on the war and 
detained some journalists under the state of emergency, including a video 
freelancer accredited to the AP, Amir Aman Kiyaro. The country's Council of 
Ministers this week proposed ending the state of emergency now, citing the 
changing security situation. That needs lawmakers' approval.

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