A United Nations overview of conditions in northern Ethiopia’s Tigray province after more than nine-months of civil strife finds a society of staggering devastation, of ruined lives and livelihoods.
Thousands of people have been killed and two million internally displaced since Ethiopian troops invaded Tigray on November 4 to retake the province from rebel forces.
The United Nations reports millions of people are suffering from acute hunger, with some 400,000 on the verge of famine. Malnutrition is soaring, putting thousands of children’s lives at risk
Spokesman for the Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Jens Laerke, says 5.2 million people—around 90 percent of the population--are now dependent on humanitarian aid for survival.
"There is extremely limited time left to halt the rapid deterioration of the food security situation," said Laerke. "Trucks should be arriving into Mekelle every day. Aid organizations estimate that at least 500 trucks of supplies are needed each week to meet the needs of people in Tigray. That is not happening.”
Laerke notes only one 50-truck convoy of aid supplies has been able to enter Tigray since late June.
Newly appointed UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, Martin Griffith is halfway through a six-day mission to Ethiopia. He is expected to travel to Tigray to assess the humanitarian situation for himself.
Observers say he will find a desolate landscape, full of traumatized people. Laerke says civilians have been victims of multiple atrocities and abuse by the warring parties.
"Horrific violations against civilians have been reported throughout the conflict," said Laerke. "This includes the widespread and systematic use of rape as a tactic of war. More than 1,600 cases of sexual and gender-based violence have been reported since the conflict began…Health facilities have been targeted, attacked, and looted. Only 16 out of 40 hospitals in Tigray are fully functioning. Women and girls who have survived sexual violence have few if any place to go for medical help.”
Laerke says U.N. and private agencies are operating within an extremely dangerous environment. He notes at least 12 aid workers have been killed in Tigray. This includes the brutal murder of three staff from the charity, Doctors Without Borders, on June 24.
The OCHA spokesman says money also is a problem. He says U.N. agencies require more than $430 million to implement their life-saving operations through the end of the year.