Civil war in Ethiopia: Doctors among those begging for food in Tigray

No UN food convoy has reached Tigray since December

Some nurses and doctors at the largest hospital in Ethiopia’s war-torn Tigray region have to beg for food to sustain themselves, one of the medics told the BBC.

They have not been paid for eight months, forcing them to find other ways to support their families, he said.

The doctor’s account comes as the UN reports that “severe hunger” was hitting more and more people in Tigray.

It indicates that 2.2 million people “suffer from an extreme lack of food”.

Half of all pregnant and breastfeeding women are malnourished, according to the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) survey.

Overall, in Tigray and the other two regions affected by months of fighting, Amhara and Afar, nine million people need some form of food assistance, the WFP adds.

Ethiopian federal government forces have been fighting rebels in the northern Tigray region since November 2020 in a conflict that has left thousands dead.

For much of this time, much of Tigray was isolated, making it difficult to deliver lifesaving aid and medical supplies. Banks have also been closed, meaning people cannot access savings or funds to pay others.

Doctors and nurses were not spared the suffering.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a doctor at Ayder Hospital in Tigray’s capital, Mekelle, told the BBC that seeing nurses and doctors queuing for food parcels had become normal over the past few years. last seven months.

Using clothes as surgical gauze

They haven’t been paid since May of last year.

“Most have reduced the number of meals they can eat per day. Cooking oil, vegetables, cereals – the price has risen so much that it is unthinkable to buy them. Some have started begging for food,” said said the doctor.

He also talked about how the lack of medical supplies affected the treatment. Instead of sterilized surgical gauze, essential for cleaning wounds during and after surgery, Ayder Hospital has relied on donated clothing which is then cut up and sterilized.

The BBC is unable to independently verify the details of the account, as much of Tigray has been in a communications blackout since the start of the war.

There might be a little relief as this week the International Committee of the Red Cross managed to airlift medical aid to Mekelle for the first time since last September.

No UN food convoy has reached Tigray since mid-December, but the WFP says 100 trucks a day are needed to avert starvation.

The UN is asking for $337m (£252m) to fund its operation in northern Ethiopia for the next six months.

The Tigray conflict erupted in 2020 after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered a military offensive against regional forces in the region. He said he did so in response to an attack on a military base housing government troops.

The escalation came after months of wrangling between Mr Abiy’s government and leaders of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), Tigray’s ruling party.

In recent months, the federal army has repelled a rebel advance but fighting has continued near the border between the Tigray and Afar regions.

There has been some hope that peace talks might be in sight.

The new US special envoy for the Horn of Africa, David Satterfield, recently visited Addis Ababa while the African Union mediator, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, also met with senior Tigrayan leaders .

Learn more about the Tigray crisis:

Map showing Tigray and other regions with key locations

Map showing Tigray and other regions with key locations

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