There have been fewer clashes between local fighters and federal forces in Ethiopia’s northern region of Tigray, but battle rages on a new front. Tigrayan forces have been fighting local fighters in Afar since January. More than 75% of the Tigray population suffers from severe hunger as a result. A large part of the population has been blocked from receiving food aid by the militia.

Tigray population facing severe hunger as war rages in Ethiopia

A total of 49,000 tons of improved seeds are needed by April, but only 4,000 tons are available. Seventy-five percent of the seven million people in Tigray have resorted to extreme coping strategies, with food aid, healthcare, and other basic needs cut off. There are several reasons for this, notably the conflict between the Tigray Defence Forces (TDF) and the Ethiopian National Defence Forces and Ethiopian Federal Police, as well as regional police and gendarmerie forces from the neighboring Amhara and Afar regions, with the participation of the Eritrean Defence Forces (EDF).

Aid givers cannot reach communities cut off by the war, especially those in Tigray, Afar, and Amhara. The World Food Programme (WFP) said it could not provide relief aid fast enough. WFP operations have been compromised since December last year. WFP is unable to provide fuel and food at the pace and scale needed, particularly in the Tigray region.

Three Médecins Sans Frontières teams were killed in Tigray in June last year, forcing the aid organization to cease its operations. More followed suit as threats increased. Only 30% of the caloric needs of crisis-affected populations were met in the past four months; to cover the shortfall, WFP needs guarantees from all sides to the conflict that humanitarian corridors will be safe and secure through all routes into the area, so that supplies can flow in and reach millions of people in need.

In Tigray, families have exhausted all means to access food, and three-quarters are using extreme survival methods. As food stocks from the last harvest diminish and humanitarian assistance does not arrive, food insecurity is expected to worsen in the coming months, OCHA says in its situational report for March.