Six months of conflict in northern Ethiopia has deepened a food crisis in the region, leaving more than five million people facing extreme levels of hunger. A climate-fuelled locust infestation had already driven up levels up food insecurity, and now conflict has left thousands of farmers with few tools, little livestock and nothing to plant ahead of the rainy season, Oxfam has warned.
Gezahegn Kebede Gebrehana, Oxfam’s Country Director in Ethiopia, said:
“Farming should be beginning now ahead of the long rainy season in June, but it has come to a total halt due to conflict and the absence of rain. Many farmers have no seeds to plant, and their oxen and tools were looted or destroyed in the conflict. Trade and market exchanges have stagnated as people fear a resurgence of fighting.”
More than 25% of the total production of Tigray was already destroyed in the last harvest, mostly by locust swarms. Most families have already depleted their food stocks. If this agricultural season is missed, the next harvest opportunity will not come for an additional 18 months.
Fantu Gezay, a farmer and a single mother of six living in Raya Azebo Woreda, Tigray, told Oxfam: “The conflict erupted when farmers were about to harvest the produce left from the locust invasion. Whatever remained from the locust was destroyed by the war, and we couldn’t harvest the teff and maize crops.”
Nearly 1.7 million people have been forced to flee their homes in Tigray; thousands of families are crammed in small rooms in schools or churches. Women and girls face an additional risk in such conditions: shelters have no partitions and lack gender segregation which puts them at risk of sexual and gender-based violence.
Freweyni Gebregzabher, from the Raya Azebo Woreda Agriculture Office, said: ‘‘My uncle was harvesting his sorghum crop a day before the war broke out. The next morning as the fighting intensified, he was shot dead while hiding in a church, and all his property was destroyed.”
Oxfam together with our local partners – the Organization for Rehabilitation and Development in the Amhara region (ORDA), and the Development and Inter-Church Aid Commission (DICAC) – have already reached 32,786 people in Tigray and north Amhara region with food, sanitation, and hygiene kits, as well as protection programs. Oxfam urgently needs US$10.78 million to support 225,000 people in Tigray and Amhara region by November, and help provide food, water, and sanitation facilities, as well as urgently needed hygiene and sleeping materials.
Oxfam calls upon the international community to support the humanitarian response in Ethiopia to help quickly mobilise resources and save lives. To date, despite rising humanitarian needs, only 58% of the total US$1.3 billion Humanitarian Response Plan for the country has been funded.
Parvin Ngala, Oxfam’s Acting Regional Director in Horn East and Central Africa (HECA) said: “We are urging parties to the conflict to agree to an immediate cessation of hostilities and find a peaceful resolution to this crisis. This will allow humanitarian agencies to reach people in need, for them to restart their lives. An end to the human rights violations and the fighting can enable farmers to plough their fields and plant their crops in the coming months that will prevent millions from starving.”
For interviews, contact Lily Partland on 0418 118 687 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to the Editor
- Hunger figures are from a UN OCHA report as of 27th April 2021. 2 million people in Tigray are now in urgent need of food assistance.
- Oxfam has established offices in South Tigray at Mehoni Town and Southeast Tigray at Mekelle City (capital of Tigray Region), which will also oversee activities in Central Tigray.
- Since the early 1970s, Oxfam has been working in Ethiopia to save lives and help over 1.8 million of the most vulnerable people out of poverty. Working closely with partners, we provide clean water, sanitation, and food, as well as assistance to marginalised farmers to get out of poverty through long-term development projects. Oxfam works on ending gender injustices and helping women.