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'I just cry': Dying of hunger in Ethiopia's blockaded Tigray

Internal documents and witness accounts reveal the first starvation deaths since Ethiopia’s government in June imposed what the U.N. calls ‘a de facto humanitarian aid blockade’ on the Tigray region.

9/20/2021 9:29:00 AM

Internal documents and witness accounts reveal the first starvation deaths since Ethiopia ’s government in June imposed what the U.N. calls ‘a de facto humanitarian aid blockade’ on the Tigray region.

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — In parts of Ethiopia ’s Tigray region, people now eat only green leaves for days. At a health center last week, a mother and her newborn weighing just 1.7 pounds died from hunger.

region, people now eat only green leaves for days. At a health center last week, a mother and her newborn weighing just 1.7 pounds died from hunger. In every district of the more than 20 where one aid group works, residents have starved to death.For months, the United Nations has warned of famine in this embattled corner of northern Ethiopia, calling it the world’s worst hunger crisis in a decade. Now internal documents and witness accounts reveal the first starvation deaths since Ethiopia’s government in June imposed what the U.N. calls “a de facto humanitarian aid blockade.”

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Forced starvation is the latest chapter in a conflict where ethnic Tigrayans have been massacred, gang-raped and expelled. Months after crops were burned and communities stripped bare, a new kind of death has set in.ADVERTISEMENT“You are killing people,” Hayelom Kebede, the former director of Tigray’s flagship Ayder Referral Hospital, recalled telling Ethiopia’s health ministry in a phone call this month. “They said, ‘Yeah, OK, we’ll forward it to the prime minister.’ What can I do? I just cry.”

He shared with The Associated Press photos of some of the 50 children receiving “very intensive care” because of malnutrition, the first such images to emerge from Tigray in months. In one, a small child with startled-looking eyes stares straight into the camera, a feeding tube in his nose, a protective amulet lying in the pronounced hollow of his throat.

Medicines have almost run out, and hospital staffers haven’t been paid since June, Hayelom said. Conditions elsewhere for Tigray’s 6 million people are often worse.The blockade and the starvation that comes with it mark a new phase in the 10-month war between Tigray forces and the Ethiopian government, along with its allies. Now the United States

has issuedan ultimatum: Take steps to stop the fighting and let aid flow freely, or a new wave of sanctions could come within weeks.The war began as a political dispute between the prime minister, 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner Abiy Ahmed, and the Tigrayans who had long dominated Ethiopia’s repressive national government. Since November, witnesses have said, Ethiopian forces and those from neighboring Eritrea looted food sources and destroyed health centers.

In June, the Tigray fighters retook the region, and Ethiopia’s government declared a ceasefire, citing humanitarian grounds. Instead, the government has sealed off the region tighter than ever, fearing that aid will reach the Tigray forces.ADVERTISEMENT

More than 350,000 metric tons of food aid are positioned in Ethiopia, but very little of it can get into Tigray. The government is so wary that humanitarian workers boarding rare flights to the region have been given an unusual list of items they cannot bring: Dental flossers. Can openers. Multivitamins. Medicines, even personal ones.

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The list, obtained by the AP, also banned means of documenting the crisis, including hard drives and flash drives. Photos and video from Tigray have disappeared from social media since June as aid workers and others, facing intense searches by authorities, fear being caught with them on their devices. Tigray has returned to darkness, with no telecommunications, no internet, no banking services and very little aid.

Ethiopia’s prime minister and other senior officials have denied there is hunger in Tigray. The government has blamed the Tigray forces and insecurity for troubles with aid delivery. It also has accused humanitarian groups of supporting, even arming, the Tigray fighters.

The prime minister’s spokeswoman, Billene Seyoum, did not say when the government would allow basic services to the region. The government “has opened access to aid routes by cutting the number of checkpoints from seven to two and creating air bridges for humanitarian flights,” she said in a statement. But medical supplies on the first European Union air bridge flight were removed during government inspection, and such flights cannot carry the large-scale food aid needed.

In the most extensive account yet of the blockade’s toll, a humanitarian worker told the AP that deaths from starvation are being reported in “every single” district of the more than 20 in Tigray where one aid group operates. The group had run out of food aid and fuel. The worker, like others, spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.

“Currently, there are devastating reports coming from every corner,” the aid group wrote to a donor in August, according to documents shared with the AP. “If no urgent solution is found, we will lose many people due to hunger.”In April, even before the current blockade was imposed, the same group wrote to the donor that “reports of malnourishment are rampant,” and that 22 people in one sub-district had starved to death.

“People’s skin color was beginning to change due to hunger; they looked emaciated with protruding skeletal bones,” the aid group wrote.In August, another staffer visited a community in central Tigray and wrote that the number of people at risk of starvation was “exponentially increasing” in both rural and urban areas. In some cases, “people are eating only green leaves for days.”

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The staffer described speaking with one mother who said her family had been living on borrowed food since June. For the past month, they had eaten only bread with salt. She worried that without food aid in the coming days they would die.“Finally, we stopped asking her because we could not tolerate to hear additional grim news,” the staffer wrote. “The administrator of the (sub-district) has also told us that there are many families who are living in similar conditions.”

At least 150 people starved to death in August, including in camps for displaced people, the Tigray External Affairs Office has alleged. The International Organization for Migration, the U.N. agency which supports the camps, said: “We unfortunately are not able to speak on this topic.”

Some toilets in the crowded camps are overflowing because there’s no cash to pay for their cleaning, leaving thousands of people vulnerable to outbreaks of disease, a visiting aid worker said. People who ate three meals a day now eat only one. Camp residents rely on the charity of host communities who often struggle to feed themselves.

“People have been able to get by, but barely,” the aid worker said. “It’s worse than subsistence, let’s put it that way.”Food security experts months ago estimated that 400,000 people in Tigray face famine conditions, more than the rest of the world combined. But the blockade means experts cannot collect the needed data to make a formal declaration of famine.

Such a declaration would be deeply embarrassing for Ethiopia, which in the 1980s seized the world’s attention with a famine so severe, also driven by conflict and government neglect, that some 1 million people were killed. Since then, Africa’s second most populous country had become a success story by pulling millions from extreme poverty and developing one of the world’s fastest-growing economies.

Now the war is hollowing out the economy, and stomachs. Malnutrition rates are near 30% for children under the age of 5, the U.N. World Food Program said Wednesday, and near 80% for pregnant and breastfeeding women.As the war spreads, so might hunger. Tigray forces have entered the neighboring regions of Amhara and Afar in recent weeks, and some residents accuse them of carrying out acts of retaliation, including closing off supply routes. The Tigray forces deny it, saying they aim to pressure Ethiopia’s government to lift the blockade.

The U.N. human rights office says abuses have been committed by all sides, although to date witness accounts indicate the most widespread atrocities have been against Tigrayan civilians.There is little help coming. The U.N. says at least 100 trucks with food and other supplies must reach Tigray every day to meet people’s needs. But as of Sept. 8, fewer than 500 had arrived since July on the only accessible road into the region. No medical supplies or fuel have been delivered to Tigray in more than a month, the U.S. says, blaming “government harassment” and decisions, not the fighting.

In mid-September the U.N. issued the first report of its kind showing in red the number of days remaining before cash or fuel ran out for key humanitarian work like treating Tigray’s most severely malnourished. Often, that number was zero.Some trucks carrying aid have been attacked, and drivers intimidated. In August, a U.N. team trying to pick up staff from Tigray was turned around by armed police who “ordered the drivers to drive significantly over speed limits while verbally abusing, harassing and threatening them,” a U.N. report said.

Major international aid groups like Doctors Without Borders and the Norwegian Refugee Council have had their operations suspended, accused of spreading “misinformation” about the war. Almost two dozen aid workers have been killed, some while distributing food. Some aid workers are forced to ration their own food.

“It is a day-to-day reality to see human sufferings, starvation,” the Catholic bishop of Adigrat, Abune Tesfaselassie Medhin, wrote in a Sept. 3 letter, shared with the AP, appealing to partners overseas for help and warning of catastrophe ahead.The need for food will continue well into next year, the U.N. says, because the limited crops planted amid the fighting are likely to produce only between a quarter and at most half of the usual harvest.

Grim as they are, the reports of starvation deaths reflect only areas in Tigray that can be reached. One Tigrayan humanitarian worker pointed out that most people live or shelter in remote places such as rugged mountains. Others are in inaccessible areas bordering hostile Eritrea or in western Tigray, now controlled by authorities from the Amhara region who bar the way to neighboring Sudan, a potential route for delivering aid.

As food and the means to find it run out, the humanitarian worker said, “I am sure the people that are dying out of this man-made hunger are way more than this.” Read more: The Associated Press »

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khzemo This is fake news no Truth The mother and new norn baby were taken from North Wollo of Amhara region which is under TPLF control. To make this famine propaganda they starved the hostages and started confusing the world Tplf does not care about tigray..... TPLFSURRENDERNOW TPLFisaTerroristGroup tplflootingexposed

TPLFTerroristGroup tplflootingexposed TPLFisaTerroristGroup TPLFisGenociderNotVictim HandsoffEthiopia UNReliefChief USAIDEthiopia UNICEFEthiopia PowerUSAID Haavisto JanezLenarcic StateDept SenateForeign HouseForeign FCDOGovUK HouseofCommons UKHouseofLords JamesDuddridge GermanyDiplo dfatirl NorwayMFA AirDropFoodToTigray AllowAccessToTigray TigrayGenocide

“If no urgent solution is found, we will lose many people due to hunger.” TigrayGenocide WEAPONIZEDSTARVATION StopTigrayFamine UNGA USAmbUN BWoodward_UN NDeRiviere irishmissionun simoncoveney NorwayUN EstoniaUN MexOnu antonioguterres PaulKagame UKUN_NewYork Tigray is blockaded by TPLFTerroristGroup expansion of invasion in to Afar & Amhara region & hostages of 400 aid delivering trucks to its war expannsion purpose, not by GoE.

Here is the reason The past 3 months over 400 comboys of humantaryan trukes hase interd the tigray rigon but sadliy onliy 38 have med it back sadliy UNHCR ignord this & blind to see this by the anunsment of the government they finaly bivalve this when it coms to TPLF crims the world is blind .. Fake news no evidence

Gosh! Did PM say that there’s no hunger in Tigray? Hmmm then why is his government allowing aid? Maybe he wants to feed TPLF? You guys do not make any sense.

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Fake news. Lying white supremacist devil media. American warmongers are trying to send weaponized aid to the TPLFTerroristGroup through their agents like PowerUSAID to destabilize the historical nation of Ethiopia. Ethiopia will never be like Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria. US has a new diplomatic crisis with its allies

对新冠病毒有效的药物 Effective medications against COVID-19 硫酸氢氯喹 Hydrochloroquine 伊维菌素 Ivermectin 青蒿素 Artemisinin 阿奇霉素 Azithromycin 地塞米松 Dexamethasone 请遵照医嘱 Please Follow Your Doctor’s Advice This is such a misleading tweet! He said that a long time ago & now you are conflating it w/the present day! Please, let’s be honest! I know I am asking the impossible when it comes to reporting on Ethiopia, but w/o honesty polarization increases & the conflict is exacerbated.

There is widespread starvation prevailing in Tigray today due to what the UN calls 'a de facto humanitarian aid blockade' imposed by Ethiopia. Aid agencies, G7 &other groups must come to the rescue of the war-torn Tigray. Food, medicine & safe drinking water are needed the most. So why can't the U.N sanction some C-130's painted up in their official colors to drop food supplies from above and run those round the clock every 2 weeks? Or is the U.N really 'Useless Networking'.

UN UNReliefChief CharlottePetriG mbachelet UNHumanRights achpr_cadhp tichy_e hrw amnesty AmnestyEARO fidh_en UNTBNet humanrights1st antonioguterres CPG_USHMM MinorityRights LaetitiaBader RESCUEorg UnKenya CanadaFP StateDept EU_Commission UN G7 MunSecConf .LindaT_G EU_UNGeneva GermanyUNGeneva ItalyUN_Geneva usmissiongeneva NLinGeneva CanadaGeneva DKUNmisgva mission_russian swiss_un SwedenUN SLOtoUNGeneva PLMissionGeneva NorwayInGeneva FinlandGeneva CZmissionGeneva FijiGeneva FinlandGeneva FranceONUGeneve

SCRtweets UNDPPA UNICEF ECPAT CRINwire DCIsecretariat DCI_Africa PlanGlobal PlanEU PlanUK save_children Save_GlobalNews WorldVision Humanium_fr BureauIBCR DicarloRosemary ChinaAmbUN NdeRiviere DominicanRepUN IndonesiaUNNY USAmbUN .USUN UKUN_NewYork And Elon Musk just transported regular people to space…for fun. But we don’t have a wealth redistribution issue. Tragic.

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BurukAregawi UN Security Council Act Now! TigrayGenocide TigrayCantWait Chinamission2un RussiaUN USUN UKUN_NewYork franceonu Niger_ONU SVG_UN PmTunisia VietNam_UN KenyaMissionUN EstoniaUN IndiaUNNewYork irishmissionun NorwayUN USAmbUN SecBlinken PowerUSAID A convoy of 61 trucks arrived safely today in Mekelle Ethiopia. 30 carried 874 mt of WFP food - enough for just 52,000 of the 5.2 million in Tigray who require food assistance immediately. We need all available trucks from Tigray on the road NOW. WFP_Ethiopia UNEthiopia

Hundreds of aid trucks have failed to return from Tigray, UN says | Abiy Ahmed News | Al Jazeera All I want is to take back his prize, wipe it clean and invite Trumo to a boxing match and present it to him. Too many mean people in control. That part of the world has nothing to offer but misery. Where are the warriors? Don’t want part of a real fight?

Terribly sad, but why can’t they develop a society anywhere they live? We are loosing many people 😭😭😭😭😭💔💔💔💔TigrayGenocide TigrayEthnicCleansing,Justice4TigraysWomenAndGirls ChildrenOfTigray ,MFATurkey,ChrisCoons TigrayMassArrest,USAmbUN amnesty,POTUS,TigrayFamine Haavisto SecBlinken LindaT_G SenateForeign,TigrayCantWait,

POTUS Come on Mr. Biden there must be someone in this world who can STOP this evil act of STARVATION AGAINST MANKIND? HELP ETHIOPIAN TIGRAY PEOPLE!!! Stop Genocide Tigray😢😢😢

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The world must stand to save Tigrayan's life POTUS SecBlinken antonioguterres USAmbUN mukeshkapila BorisJohnson EmmanuelMacron SenBooker batten_von SenateForeign HouseForeign Haavisto JosepBorrellF JuttaUrpilainen FilippoGrandi WFPChief NRC_Egeland DavidAltonHL TigrayGenocide UNACCEPTIBLE !!!!!! CATEGORIZE AmharaInterahamweMilitias IsaiasAfewerki AbiyAhmed DemekeHasen AgegnehuT ShimelisAbdisa SahleWorkZewde TERRORISTS RepKarenBass StateDept UKinEthiopia EUinEthiopia POTUS SecBlinken USAmbUN DominicRaab ChrisCoons VP

Fake news with fake photo! THE DEADLY SITUATION COULD BE THWARTED BY BIRTH CONTROL..........WTF IS WRONG WITH THE WORLD The catholics could literally save all these people but they refuse to making excuses that they're not European. With the name of famine TPLF were supported on 19 80 G.C. if the tendency is to help us we will appreciate, but the goal behind is always had hidden agenda.

💔 Meanwhile Joe Biden and his administration are giving millions to the Taliban Humanity at the worst WFP USAID USAmbUN please act now!

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This reminds me of a book that I read it's called the confessions of an economic Hitman. I have seen this movie before. Wow, AP news!.. You---too? Just... wow... Sorry: can't access your website to read this. So much for... well, everything... I smell the CIA. This is in Wollo not in Tigray. TheEllenShow

If they don’t have food to eat? How they have power to attack Amhara and afar and Tigray ppl are supporting food and money for TPLFTerroristGroup that’s what we’re hearing from their TigrayTv why Tplf don’t go back to their region and ask for negotiation so it may be logical TPLF used same tactics in late 1960s. It is sad to see people are dying because of TPLF arrogance. Tigray peoples are sending food items to Rebel groups while other innocent people are dying. Tell them to feed those father, mother and childrens instade of those criminal clique

TPLF is starving Tigrai civilians by not returning aid trucks. This kind of propaganda worked for them 40 years ago, now they are using similar tactic. Western media is happy to assist. I got this. Where can I put my plane down to deliver food? martinplaut This is not in Tigray it is in Amhara region in North Wollo.Why you lie and misinformed the international community. Journalist without professional should stop. Go to Amhara region in North Wollo and report the reality to the international community. Stop imbalance reporting.

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lol nice martinplaut TPLF is starving the people of Tigray by using aid truck for the transporting of militia to invade Amhara and Afar regions. Only 38 out of 466 trucks are returned that entered in Tigray. martinplaut martinplaut TPLFterroristgroup is completely responsible for these not Ethiopian government.tplf block aids and even they usue the aid trucks in to the war.

martinplaut 600 hundred innocent civilian are massacred by TPLF recently Ignored that. TPLF is stealing trucks that are delivering aid but choose to vilify the government. The bais is next next level! martinplaut According to UNEthiopia, none of the 149 trucks in the humanitarian convoy that reached Mekelle Ethiopia last week returned. Only 38 out of 466 trucks that entered Tigray since 12 July returned.

martinplaut Very shocking ! Ethiopia is Erasing Ethnic Tigrayans! unfetteredaccesto Tigray. martinplaut So, why TPLF then need autonomy over its region without to food to its people? TigrayFamine AllowAccessToTigray AirDropFoodToTigray TigrayCantWait POTUS PressSec StateDept SecBlinken StateDeptSpox PowerUSAID SamanthaJPower JosepBorrellF JanezLenarcic eucopresident JamesDuddridge SarahChampionMP RepSaraJacobs UnderSecStateP FCDOGovUK

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DisarmTPLF TPLFisaTerroristGroup Man-made famine is Abiy Ahmed's silent weapon of war against innocent and vulnerable civilians in Tigray. BBCWorld CNN 21 century ..Jerusalem..kashmir yemen Syria afghan Iraq libya Tigray Somalia poverty due to man made wars.. TPLF block the aid to tigray ppl,from 466 trucks only 38 that entered to Tigray returned. None of the 149 trucks in the convoy that reached Tigray last week returned. WHO need trucks to deliver lifesaving assistance to the people of tigray

ProfKindeya This must be people who are denied aid by TPLF. There is enough food in the region. Not only send to the region but also robbed from Ambara and Afar. TPLF is incriminated for starvation in Amhara, Tigrai, and Afar. Stoo genocide! Ethiopia govt is committing gross human rights violations. Tigrayans are being starved to death, & the entire world is watching! TigrayGenocide UKActNow david_duguid John2Win DavidMundellDCT MPIainDS lucyfrazermp LukeHall S_Hammond IoWBobSeely

All a man-made famine started taking lives, sadly in the 21C. AbiyAhmedAli imposed a a siege and blockade of access to hum aid to Tigray to starve millions to death. If ppl start to die, think of how many are in the row and how it will affect in long term. TigrayFamine They told us Ethiopia is 2,000 yrs old gov't but poor and going back to eat tree leaves

The world is broken. Not new info lakini. Tigray rebels have waged a genocidal war against Amhara. Millions are looted & occupied by them completely for 2+ mths, being starved to death. Thousands have been killed. 1 million+ IDPs. AmharaGenocide ChenaMassacre AgamsaMassacre AtrocitiesByTPLF AfarMassacre Ethiopia

Fake article from fake news! ask where the WFP_Ethiopia trucks are. This is just sad 😞 StopTigrayFamine AllowAccessToTigray WFP UN SecBlinken USAmbUN RasAntonioM UNOCHA UN_HRC hrw UNHumanRights hayet_alem SIMON_TE tigistAA Tseday meazaG_ Alula_Solomon awolallo ittaanaa_haftee TsedaleLemma wdavison10 FevenGirmay_ OmnaTigray MelatG2020 LaurenBinDC HailuKebede_

MariaG_N LarryMadowo nimaelbagir ZainAsher beckycnn OneWorldCNN CNNConnect wdavison10 awolallo RobynCurnowCNN CNNnewsroom Kal_KidanY C_SOI dendeshaw F24Debate FrancoisF24 AJStream FemiOke malonebarry rcoreyb MarksSimon declanwalsh willintune trbrt markc_anderson _Will_Brown ZekuZelalem berhe_lucy MariaG_N C_SOI LarryMadowo Kal_KidanY dendeshaw

breakfastclubam djenvy cthagod angelayee Blklivesmatter opalayo aliciagarza Mvmnt4BlkLives BlackSocialists GPCA rakidi ProfKindeya No matter what stories you publish, as long as you fail to tell your readers that this famine has been caused by TPLF, the government of Tigray blocking the roads by starting fighting along them hoping to profit from resources it will steal when famine relief arrives, u r liars

Weapon of Mass Distraction: the news is mostly silent about this genocide for a year now. Thank you

Yet another one sided sickening story by Cara Anna. How come ur blind to the atrocities being committed by the invading TPLF militia in neighboring states? The war is not in Tigray. They just murdered 600 civilians in Kobo. God is watching, hypocracy of Western press sickening. Fake news Ethiopia has doubled it's population from 60M to 120M since 2000. That place has 120M people, let that sink in..

Remember: the Nobel prize committee gave the prime minister of Ethiopia a “peace” prize.