Peace Reigns in Ethiopia’s Tigray Region, Yet Children Suffer from Severe Hunger

Ethiopia’s Tigray region is now peaceful, but extreme hunger afflicts its children

In the arid expanse of Ethiopia’s Tigray region, Tinseu Hiluf, a widow, faces the harsh convergence of war and drought while caring for her late sister’s four children, left orphaned due to childbirth complications.

The lingering impacts of a two-year conflict between federal and regional forces have already claimed one of Tinseu’s sons, leaving the rest to grapple with the trauma of war. Meanwhile, the unforgiving grip of drought exacerbates their plight, leaving the youngest child malnourished and in desperate need of sustenance.

In a landscape where greenery is sparse amidst the rocky desert, Tinseu scavenges for seeds to feed her family. However, when resources run dry, she resorts to a journey to the Finarwa health center in southeastern Tigray, clinging to hope to keep her one-year-old baby alive.

Peace Reigns in Ethiopia's Tigray Region, Yet Children Suffer from Severe Hunger
Peace Reigns in Ethiopia’s Tigray Region, Yet Children Suffer from Severe Hunger (Credits: The Seattle Times)

Tinseu’s story resonates with several other mothers in Nebar Hadnet, who, like her, seek assistance amid the region’s turmoil. One mother laments the absence of breastmilk for her eight-month-old, while another pleads for baby food sachets to sustain her twins.

Though the guns have fallen silent, the scars of war persist, compounded by a dire shortage of aid exacerbated by mismanagement, leading to the suspension of crucial deliveries by the UN and the US. Once-fertile fields now lie barren, mirroring the despair etched on the faces of mothers watching their children waste away from hunger.

The grim reality is stark: nearly 400 deaths from starvation were recorded in Tigray and neighboring Amhara region in the preceding six months, with the majority occurring in Tigray alone, home to 5.5 million people.

Despite the signing of a peace agreement in November 2022, the aftermath of conflict persists, exacerbated by a failed growing season and widespread insecurity that hampers agricultural activities. With only half of Tigray’s farmland planted and crop production dwindling due to drought, warnings of an impending famine akin to the catastrophic events of 1984-5 loom large.

Communities like Finarwa, with its war-ravaged health center and dwindling resources, bear the brunt of this crisis. Children, devoid of sustenance, are forced to flee in search of food, leaving families fractured and communities desolate.

Local leaders, once beacons of hope, now find themselves powerless in the face of overwhelming need. Hayale Gebrekedian, a district leader, grapples with the heart-wrenching pleas of villagers, knowing all too well that he lacks the means to provide the assistance they desperately require.

Access to water further compounds the challenges, with dwindling wells exacerbating the plight of already suffering communities. Haile Gebre Kristos, a resilient farmer, persevered despite the odds, clinging to hope amidst parched lands and failed harvests.

Yet, the specter of the 1980s famine looms large, a haunting reminder of past tragedies that continue to reverberate through the region. For many, the current crisis mirrors or even surpasses the horrors of that era, underscoring the urgent need for a concerted humanitarian response to avert further catastrophe.

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