Ethiopia: Tigray Region Interim Admin Official Admits Death of 13 Due to Lack of Food - Says Crisis Scale "Unprecedented" in Region's History

Addis Ababa — Abraha Desta, Head of the Tigray Regional State Interim Administration Bureau of Social Affairs, has admitted that his office has received report on the death of 13 people, three of whom children, due to starvation in the regional state. Although no summary report has yet been received, Abraha said his office knew of 10 people in Gulomahda Woreda and three children in Adwa town who have died of lack of food.

Abraha also said that the level of the crisis in the whole region was "unprecedented in its history", and that 4.5 million people were in need of emergency food assistance and more than 2.5 million people were displaced.

In an interview he gave to VOA Tigrigna, which is made available on VOA Amharic, Abraha said that the humanitarian crisis Tigray is facing following the armed conflict which broke out on November 04 last year is growing severely, particularly in terms of food shortage due to lack of distribution and health care areas which require immediate attention.

"The people of Tigray have been displaced, most of their property are looted, and most of them are in need of emergency assistance," the news portal quoted Abraha as saying. Shortage of clean water is compounding the crisis as people are forced to drink untreated water with severe consequences of being infected with diarrhea.

Although there is availability of essential food for distribution in the region the security risk is preventing aid agencies and the regional interim administration from effectively transporting the supplies to the people in need, particularly those living in rural areas. "Drivers are afraid; and with the collapse of the government structure, it has become difficult to deliver aid," he said.

"Everything has been affected by the war, there is starvation and people are dying. We have food stock, but it requires a government structure to transport the food. What was existing has collapsed and we have not been able to reach the people with what we have," he said.

In an attempt to address the security concerns of drivers of convoys carrying food distribution, the regional interim administration working hard by turning what is left of all public institutions to fully work on delivering humanitarian assistance, Abraha said.

Some aid has already been sent to the eastern and north-western zones of the regional state, but due collapse of telephone services it is difficult to confirm if the aid has reached the intended people.

So far, the interim administration has helped more than 50,000 people in the capital Mekelle city. Assistance was also provided to 10,000 internally displaced people and further preparations are underway to provide assistance to up to 300,000 people.

Responding to complaints from international humanitarian organizations about the lack of humanitarian access Abraha said: "We want them to come and help us. When they come to Mekelle for help, we request them to go to Adigrat, Axum, Shire, and Adwa, not just Mekelle. They raise security concerns. We try to get them security convoys but we did not succeed," he said.

Relief efforts have so far reached most areas, but aid had not reached the western zone and that the interim administration had not been able to deliver aid due to the lack of government structure. Efforts were underway to establish interim administration structures and there are attempts to reach those displaced from western zone of the region and are currently sheltered in areas such Shire, Axum and Mekelle. AS

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