Starvation is a menace to Ethiopia’s Tigray that has been called”the “Silent Killer.” In Ethiopia’s war-ravaged Tigray region, mothers talk about the feeding of their children as desperate attempts to sustain them.
They search for signs of hunger as they move from one place to another while avoiding fighting and searching for help. They may notice a slowing of their pace, itching, and a loss of appetite.
Based on internal data and images from a relief group – spotted in the news by AFP earlier this week which reveal the deaths of people who have been starving at two sites, with others suspected elsewhere, these signs are getting more frequent these days and can in some cases suggest the most dire outcome.
“My daughter appeared to be in great mental and physical condition prior to the incident… Based on a witness provided by the agency the mother of a newborn in the city of Adigrat stated, “Now look at her.”
“It’s been a while since she’s had a hunger pang. She’s currently in a state of inability to walk, and has lost her smile.”
It’s been almost 3 months since United Nations warned that 400,000 people living in Tigray had “passed the starvation threshold.”
Since then the situation has got worse and has resulted in an actual blockade blocking all supplies from getting into.
Doctors are worried after months of violence and massacres that have resulted in the deaths of hundreds, Tigray is entering a new phase of deaths brought on by the same type of malnutrition widespread that has made Ethiopia famous for its famine during the 1980s.
“It’s an assassination that is not visible. The people are losing their lives,” said Dr. Hayelom Kebede, research head of the Ayder Referral Hospital in Mekele Tigray’s capital and the largest city.
“The horrible thing about famine is that you’ll witness individuals in the throes of death, but they won’t die right away,” said he said to AFP.
“It requires time once the bodies of victims have been damaged over and again. This is even more horrible than deaths by gunshots.”
Premier Minister Abiy Ahmed Abiy Ahmed, who is a Nobel Peace Prize winner, sent forces in Tigray in November to overthrow the ruling party in the region The Tigray People’s Liberation Force (TPLF) and cited TPLF attacks on barracks of the army as the reason.
The war damaged the crops in a region already starving for food, and some of the combatants further aggravated the problem by blocking and stealing food aid.
In the last week of June it was reported that the TPLF took back a large portion of Tigray and Mekele. Mekele and the military personnel fled the country in large quantities.
Even though Abiy’s office has announced an ceasefire to protect civilians, only tiny amounts of aid has been delivered – as per the US less than 10% of the needed aid has arrived within the last month.