Ethiopia on Wednesday said that there was no risk of famine in the restive Tigray region, where the federal government launched a massive “law enforcement operation” last November.
Hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians are said to be internally displaced and more than 60,000 people fled to neighboring Sudan in the conflict that is now in its eighth month – a conflict that erupted after the hitherto all-too-powerful Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) stormed the northern command of the Ethiopian defense forces, killing soldiers and looting sizable military hardware.
Although Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed declared the military operations over two weeks into the start of the law enforcement, sporadic fighting is being reported to date, though on a very limited scope as the TPLF fighters were pushed deeper into the bushes in two fronts.
“We are not in a condition to declare a famine in Tigray,” Mitiku Kassa, commissioner for disaster risk management, told a joint press briefing he gave together with Health Minister Lia Tadesse.
Last week, the UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock repeated what has been circulating widely in international media that there was a serious famine situation or at least extreme hunger in Tigray, Ethiopia’s northernmost region.
He said, “70% of areas in Tigray (that are cultivable) are cultivated,” adding not all of three conditions required for declaring a famine situation happened – crude death rates higher than two per 10,000 people per day, a global acute malnutrition rate greater than 30%, and an extreme lack of food affecting more than 20% of the population.
According to Lowcock, 4.5 million beneficiaries in a region of an estimated 5.5 million people have been covered with emergency assistance – both food and non-food.
In a situational update briefing, Lia said on her part that 55% of hospitals and 52% of health centers in the region have been made operational thus far.
“Last week it was 46% of health facilities that were made to be functional in the region,” she said, adding 10 more health facilities were made operational in recent days.