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News: Aid suspension persists despite reports of hunger, deaths by officials and residents in Tigray

Six people have reportedly died of hunger last week in one Kebele alone

By Mihret G Kristos @MercyG_kirstos

Addis Ababa – The suspension of humanitarian aid to Tigray region by major humanitarian partners continued despite reports both by regional officials and residents of hunger and hunger-related deaths in the regional state. At least six individuals have reportedly perished only in one week due to hunger-related health complications, while 421 households are facing risks in the Amdi Weyane, Debre Hayla Kebele, Samre Woreda, a mere 40 kilometers from the capital Mekele.

Ashebr Teklay, chairman of the Kebele, said that due to the recent interruption of aid delivery to the region by international humanitarian organizations, hunger related death toll has been registered. After months of a de facto blockade, Tigray saw a period of increased flow of humanitarian aid after the 02 November 2022 Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (CoHA) was signed between the federal government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front in South Africa, Pretoria.

Since the start of May, WFP and USAID, the two major humanitarian partners made public announcement on the termination of food distribution in the Tigray region due to “food diversion” reports.

On 03 May, the WFP said that it “immediately launched a comprehensive investigation upon learning of the food diversion reports and has taken swift action to establish all the facts and further strengthen our controls”, adding that it “has paused food distributions in Tigray, which will not resume until WFP can ensure that vital aid will reach its intended recipients”.

Similarly, the USAID, followed suit and announced that that it has made “the difficult decision to pause all US.AID-supported food assistance in the Tigray region until further notice.”

The Tigray region interim administration has subsequently announced the establishment of a committee to conduct investigations into the allegations of aid theft that led the international aid agencies to suspend their operation in the region. “In light of the gravity of the problem and mounting evidence on the ground, we have launched a high-level investigation to ensure that all culprits are held to account whatever their background or status”, Getachew Reda, interim president of the region said.

According to Ashebir Teklay, although there were reported deaths due to hunger in the Kebelle in the past, the death toll has risen sharply in the past weeks following the termination of urgently needed humanitarian aid supply to the area, which subsequently affected the most vulnerable in the area.

“The situation is so horrific, only in the last week six people have died including children,” Ashebir said, adding that “421 households are severely affected and they are in the agony of death unless they are provided with emergency aid within less than two weeks”.

Kalayu Kahsay, a resident of Amdi Weyane Debre Hayla Kebele and a father of six, told Addis Standard on Tuesday that he was going to the nearby church “to beg for food” from a congregation of believers over the annual celebration of St. Mary’s birth for his children and himself.

 “I am now crossing to the church to beg for food,” he said, “there is no fertilizer, we have not planted seeds previously and we are still suffering from hunger with our children”.

Tesfu Mekonen ,40, is also a resident of the area and a father of four. Tesfu recently suffered from a car accident, which added to his woes. Now, he neither gets food nor medical treatment.  

“Now I am in a critical condition to feed myself and my family. We get no humanitarian aid and I am trying to get daily bread by begging, but as most of the people here are themselves starving, it is hard to get enough food,” he told Addis Standard by Phone. Tesfu said many people have been forced to leave their hometown due to hunger.

Ashebir, the chairman of the kebele, said that although they have reported to four humanitarian organizations including WFP and Tigray agriculture bureau that more than 12,000 people who reside in area are in a dire situation, no one has given them a positive response.

Gebrehiwot G/zgabher (PhD), Commissioner of the Disaster Risk Management Commission in Tigray Interim Administration, has confirmed the alarming hunger crisis disaster in Samre Wereda.

Despite the reports sent to the international humanitarian agencies including WFP and CRS, the local administration is informed that there will not continue supporting emergency food supplies unless the investigation has been conducted.

However, the commissioner argued that any theft can be investigated and action will be taken but the humanitarian agencies could continue suspending the dying people. “They suspended aid throughout the region and this is illegal action while the people are dying of hunger,” Gebrehiwot told Addis Standard

The decision made by the international humanitarian organizations has left the people in the region in a devastating situation. Having condemned the alleged fraud and theft in a statement issued yesterday, The Tigray -Inter-Religious Council, has called on the international humanitarian agencies to amend their previous decision of suspending humanitarian aid.

In the statement the Council released,it emphasized that the Council is saddened to hear of the decision to cut off humanitarian aid to the people of Tigray while lives have been passing away.  “The decision to cut off humanitarian aid to Tigray is a death sentence rather than hurting its unhealed wounds,” it stated.

Despite improved flow of humanitarian aid to the Tigray region since the peace agreement, millions remain dependent on continued food distribution. The situation is especially critical among the internally displaced people (IDPs), including those sheltered in the capital Mekelle, are not receiving adequate humanitarian aid.

More than 54, 000 IDPs sheltered at an IDP camp in Abiy-Adi, in central Tigray, were among those who continued suffering from persistent severe shortage of food and medicine supplies. AS

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