An analysis by UN agencies and aid groups estimates that some 350,000 people in Ethiopia’s conflict-torn Tigray region are starving, according to an internal UN document seen by Reuters on Wednesday.
The Ethiopian government disputes the IPC analysis (Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC)), according to the notes of a meeting on the situation in Tigray of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) ̵
“On the risk of famine, it was noted that the unpublished IPC analysis figures were disputed by the Ethiopian government, especially the estimated 350,000 people across Tigray who are believed to be under IPC 5 famine conditions,” the June 7 document read. .
The analysis, which diplomats said could be released publicly on Thursday, had found that millions across Tigray required “urgent food and agriculture / livelihood support to stave off further slips against famine.”
Fighting broke out in Tigray in November between government troops and the region’s former ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
Troops from neighboring Eritrea have also joined the conflict in support of the Ethiopian government.
The violence has killed thousands of civilians and forced more than 2 million from their homes in the mountainous region.
The committee, chaired by UN Secretary-General Mark Lowcock, includes the UN Children’s Agency UNICEF, the World Food Program, the High Commissioner for Refugees, the World Health Organization and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Mituku Kassa, head of Ethiopia’s National Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Committee, said on Thursday that a declaration of famine would be wrong. He accused the TPLF of attacking aid convoys.
“We do not have food shortages,” he told a news conference.
More than 90% of the population has been helped by five operators, he said. “TPLF remnants … attack staff, they attack trucks with food.”
Reuters could not reach the TPLF for comment, and Mituku did not provide details about the alleged attacks.
The Ethiopian Government Emergency Response Team over Tigray, the office of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A senior Ethiopian diplomat in New York, speaking on condition of anonymity, questioned the methods of investigation and accused the IPC of lack of transparency and inadequate consultation.
Famine has been declared twice in the last decade – in Somalia in 2011 and in South Sudan in 2017. UN agencies, aid groups, governments and other relevant parties use the IPC to work together to determine the severity of food insecurity.
The UN said on Wednesday it had reported incidents of denial of movement of aid and interrogation, assault and detention of humanitarian workers at military checkpoints along with looting and confiscation of humanitarian assets and supplies from the parties to the conflict.
“Levels of food security and malnutrition are at alarming levels,” said UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric.
There had been reports of famine among the displaced, while there was a great need for food in northwestern Tigray after burning or plundering crops. He did not blame.
Another UN spokesman declined to comment specifically on the internal IASC notes.
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