The conflict is the result of mounting tensions between the former ruling elite, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), and Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, who has championed an anti-federal agenda since coming to power in 2018.
The US announced on Thursday that it would provide $181 million to deliver food, water and aid to the more than three million people it said were at risk of famine.
“As a result of the conflict, nearly 90 per cent of Tigray’s population – as many as 5.2 million people – need urgent assistance,” said the US Agency for International Development (USAID). Other donors should “urgently step up” humanitarian assistance, it added.
The US, once Ethiopia’s largest donor, imposed sanctions on Africa’s second-most populous country in May and warned of further restrictions to economic and security assistance. The Ethiopian government, however, has rejected the IPC Phase 5 Classification.
“We don’t have any food shortages,” said Mituku Kassa, head of Ethiopia’s National Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Committee. Famine has only been declared in Somalia in 2011 and in South Sudan in 2017 over the past decade.
Unicef’s executive director Henrietta Fore said the situation in Tigray was “extremely concerning”.
“Without humanitarian access to scale up our response, an estimated 33,000 severely malnourished children in currently inaccessible areas in Tigray are at high risk of death. The world cannot permit that to happen,” she said.