- It has been almost a year since the conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region ended due to a ceasefire.
- According to a study conducted by local health authorities and a university, hunger has become the leading cause of death in the Tigray region.
- Almost 70% of the deaths investigated in the region were caused by starvation.
Researchers say they have verified 1,329 starvation deaths in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region since a ceasefire ended a two-year conflict there in November.
A study by local health authorities and Mekele University in the regional capital found that hunger is now the leading cause of death in Tigray, accounting for more than 68% of the deaths investigated by the researchers.
The study is based on a household census conducted by health workers from August 15 to 29 in nine sub-regions of Tigray and 53 IDP camps.
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Tigray has a total of 88 sub-districts and 643 displacement camps, so the number of starvation deaths across the region is almost certainly much higher.
One factor is the suspension of food aid by the United States and the United Nations following the discovery in March of a massive scheme to steal humanitarian grain in Tigray. The pause was extended to the rest of Ethiopia in June after it was determined that the theft was nationwide.
The Ethiopian government wants the suspension to end. The US government and the UN want the government to relinquish control of the food aid distribution system.
The number of deaths from all causes recorded by researchers in the Tigray regions studied rose sharply after aid was suspended, almost doubling from 159 in March to 305 in July.
About 5.4 million of Tigray’s population of 6 million relied on humanitarian aid. Over 20 million people in Ethiopia in total need food aid.
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The study’s findings are outlined in a document seen by The Associated Press and prepared by the Tigray Emergency Coordination Center, a group of UN agencies, aid groups and regional government offices.
Famine plagued Tigray throughout the conflict between Ethiopian forces and Tigray allies and fighters. For much of it, the federal government has cut the region’s services and limited access to aid, prompting UN experts to accuse it of using hunger as a weapon.
The government has rejected claims of arming aid, blaming Tigray militants for the lack of access.
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The November ceasefire raised hopes that aid would reach the region, but they were dashed by the discovery of mass theft, with some bags of US-branded grain being sold in local markets.
Tigray authorities found that 7,000 metric tons of grain had been stolen. Earlier this month, the regional leader announced that 480 officials had been arrested in connection with corruption.
Other parts of Ethiopia have yet to reveal the results of their own investigations. The US and the UN’s World Food Program are also investigating.