For about two months, Kiflom Tekleweyni ate less.
A 23-year-old boy, born with an undiagnosed dementia, and his mother fled his home in Dansha in Tigray province in Ethiopia in March.
“We have been waiting for food aid when we get here,” Kiflom’s mother, Mulu Yirdaw, told Al Jazeera from Shire, a town in the Far East. “But it’s been about two months now. We received nothing. ”
During this time, Mulu and his son found shelter in a small room in the home of a Shire citizen and relied on locals to give them cocoa, Ethiopian maize. But the donations are not uncommon and are not enough, as the locals are also suffering, and the two have been without food for a whole week – and sometimes more than that.
“The community tries to help us. But there are so many people who are starving, they can’t feed us all, ”said Mulu, 64.
Weeks of famine have caused Kiflom and her mother to lose weight. Sadly, Kiflom has reached the point where he can no longer take food, his mother said.
“She is very sick. She has a fever and fatigue. My son has never been like this, “said Mulu, who also became ill every time he ate but could not get medical attention from them and Kiflom.
Now in its seventh month, the war in Tigray is said to have killed thousands of people with their 1.7 million losses, making the major social problems an already poor area.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered that ground forces and planes in Tigray in early November 2020 criticize the then ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), for plotting terrorist attacks, which the TPLF officials are refusing.
Abiy, whose troops are backed by Eritrean troops and fighters from the Amhara region of Ethiopia, announced their victory in late November when the troops entered the provincial capital, Mekelle. The struggle, however, continues and reports of killing many people, rape and widespread hunger keep coming out.
Over the past six months, the United Nations, international humanitarian agencies, and governments have repeatedly appealed to the humanitarian community to address six million people in the face of growing fears of long arguments it is destructive to ordinary people.
On Monday, World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, from Tigray, described the situation in the region.very dangerous“, With” many people “dying” from starvation “.
In December, the Ethiopian government promised to “find opportunities to help the people” but large parts of Tigray, especially in the rural areas, were still cut off due to violence, according to what has happened (PDF) earlier this month by the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Some parts of central, south and southeast of Tigray have been closed by militants since early March.
According to an OCHA report, the prevalence of malnutrition is “high and low”.
Of the approximately five million people in need, food users – National Disaster Risk Management Commission (NDRMC) in Ethiopia, Joint Emergency Operation Program for Aid Assistance in Ethiopia (JEOP) and World Food Program (WFP) – at the end of April shared food more than 19,000 metric (MT) for 1.1 million people.
The NDRMC distributed MT 10,839 food and distributed MT 427 food to 27,466 people, said OCHA, which reaffirmed the restoration of agricultural activities in pre-war zones and in assisting farmers and crops, among other things to re-establish agriculture and increase food security.
A study published last month by SCORE on humanitarian assistance in Tigray found that 94% of the 614 respondents had been in need of help since the war began, when food was most important. However, 57% said they had not received any assistance in the past three months.
Lack of access to social services has led to malnutrition, especially among children, pregnant and breastfeeding women, according to support groups. OCHA surveyed 19,324 children and found 431 to be malnourished and 3,473 to be malnourished. Of the 4,447 pregnant and breastfeeding women, 2721 were reported to be malnourished.
“This needs to be addressed urgently,” Karline Kleijer, head of Doctors Without Border’s emergency program (also known by the French-speaking French word, MSF), told Al Jazeera.
“There is a high risk of malnutrition in the coming months,” he warned. “In the last few weeks, of the 309 children who came to our hospitals, there was 26.6 percent worldwide malnutrition. More than 6 percent had malnutrition. ”
After months of rejection, Abiy he agreed March 23 presence of Eritrean troops in Tigray. Ethiopians and Eritreans have promised that Eritrean troops will be evacuated, but recent refugee records (IDPs) have shown this.
“The Eritrean military burned all my crops and food. They took my sheep,” said Tekay Gebru, who recently arrived at Mai Woyni, a high school in Mekelle that was also given the opportunity to become an IDP.
“They burned my neighbor, a blind old woman with her crops and houses,” the 40-year-old two-year-old told Al Jazeera. “They set another neighbor on fire when he asked them to leave him a small portion of the harvest.”
Witnessing this on April 12, Tekay said he left his home village of Adi Awso southeast of Tigray the same day. They lived in other villages near the town of Samre until April 22, when newly arrived Eritrean troops replaced those who had been living in the area for several months.
“The villages are now completely under the control of the new coming Eritrean groups. Almost everyone fled, except for the very elderly and infirm, “said Tekay, who survived with the help of people found in other villages before reaching the lower Mekelle.
“The rural people I met before fleeing to Mekelle share what they have. But there is little we can eat and share, ”he added. “When I get food, I give it to my daughters. I haven’t eaten anything in the last four days. I’m hungry. “
Yohannse Araya is one of 176,230 IDPs hiding in 19 schools in Mekelle. A 60-year-old man, who fled Ferese Maryam, a village in Adwa, lost his wife on his way to the provincial capital.
“On February 6, Eritrean military forces confiscated our crops. There was nothing left to eat. We fled for our lives. I arrived in Mekelle. But my wife could not survive. Hunger killed him, “said Yohannse, who survived for 15 days without food.
Arriving in Mekelle on February 28, Yohannse said he had not received anything from the vendors. Instead, she and other school refugees have relied on food donated by the community and other government agencies.
“No reply. In December alone, 8,000 migrants in Mekelle received a 30-kilos food allowance. But the number [of people displaced] is growing every day, “Tigray sub-county aid director told Al Jazeera.
The co-ordinator, who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisals, said government officials had received reports of eight starvation deaths since the start of the conflict.
“But I believe there are many people who have not died,” he said.
With the real problem unknown, Al Jazeera asked Peter Smerdon, a WFP spokesman, about the number of starving people across the region.
“We don’t have a definite person,” replied Smerdon, not to mention anything else. The issue of hunger is political. ”
In the report (PDF) published last month, the World Peace Foundation, a research organization at Tufts University, warned of the impending threat of severe famine and starvation in Tigray and accused Ethiopian and Eritrean troops of “disrupting” their economy and food system.
Eritrean Media Minister Yemane Ghebremeskel and Abiy’s spokesman Billene Seyoum were approached to explain the situation. Both did not respond.
Mu words last month, the Ethiopian ambassador to London said he was “strongly, strongly opposed to the World Peace Foundation’s assertion that the Ethiopian government is ‘harassing the Tigray people’ and using ‘hunger as a weapon of war’.
“In the meantime, the government has taken steps to address global needs by providing life-saving food to the more than 4.2 million citizens of Tigray, in collaboration with their international counterparts,” he said.
Eritrea also he refuses allegations of “sexual exploitation and starvation as a tool”, as well as the obstruction of aid in an area where an estimated 1.6 million people have relied on aid since 2009. In a letter to the Security Council last month, Sophia Tesfamariam, Eritrea’s ambassador to the UN, stated: “The allegations of rape and other crimes against the Eritrean military are not only dangerous, but also extremely dangerous to the culture and history of our people.”
But in interview Tigray TV state grantee on May 11, Abebe Gebrehiwot, deputy chief of the Tigray sub-county government, said there was a “campaign” to ban Tigrayan farmers from cultivating their fields. Trucks carrying grain are also banned from entering Tigray, he said.
“This is nothing, but a deliberate act of starving Tigray people. If the means of transporting crops to Tigray are blocked and if farmers are not allowed to cultivate their fields, what else could be done other than starving people to death?” Abebe said. .
His questions came days after a government official at the Tigray Disaster Management Bureau told Al Jazeera that he was “deliberately starving” the Tigray people. Criticizing the participants in Ethiopia and Eritrea over the alleged allegations, the official said it had been taking place in the central, north-west and parts of the eastern Tigray since April 10.
“Eritreans are telling us that they will burn food trucks when we pass by. Ethiopian troops are also shutting down aid. This is a deliberate move to prevent people from starving to death,” he said, who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisals.
Back to the Shire, meanwhile, as Kiflom’s condition worsens for minutes, according to his mother.
“I’m afraid my baby will die soon,” Mulu said.