December 6, 2022

Ethiopian government blocked declaration of famine in Tigray, says former UN official

Prime Minister of Ethiopia Abiy Ahmed Ali
Prime Minister of Ethiopia Abiy Ahmed Ali

The Ethiopian government blocked a declaration of famine in the Tigray region, said former United Nations Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock.

“At the end of my time in the UN, it was clear to me that there was famine in Tigray, and the only reason it wasn’t declared was because the Ethiopian authorities were quite effective in slowing down the whole declaration system,” said Lowcock during an online event held by the ​​Overseas Development Institute on Tuesday.

Mark Lowcock served as the UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator from May of 2017 to July of 2021. He went on to criticize the current system used for famine declaration, calling it “not functional” and explaining that it can be subject to manipulation by the relevant country’s government, as has been the case with Ethiopia.

Since famine could not be formally declared in Tigray, world leaders, humanitarians, and journalists had to use less harsh language, instead using terms such as “food insecurity.” Many assert that this has caused the public to not take the situation as seriously as it truly should be taken.

According to data from the United Nations, 400,000 people in Ethiopia’s Tigray region face phase 5 ‘catastrophic’ levels of food insecurity. This is the highest number on record in a single country since the famine in Somalia in 2011.

In January, the United Nations classified 4.6 million people in the Tigray Region as food insecure. This is 83 percent of the population.

The humanitarian situation in Tigray is incredibly dire and the misconduct of the Ethiopian government continues to come to light. As millions of people need humanitarian aid, reports indicate that the Ethiopian government has been uncooperative with the cause throughout the conflict.

Lowcock made headlines in June of 2021 when he declared, “Food is definitely being used as a weapon of war” in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. According to the UN Security Council, such actions constitute a war crime.

Throughout the violent war in Tigray, world leaders have called for accountability. The perpetrators of human rights violations must be held responsible. The misconduct of those in power has enabled continued atrocities to be committed while being covered in manipulation and dishonesty.

While Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s administration has denied that the Ethiopian government has been blocking aid to the region, USAID and many others have accused the disgraced leader and his regime of obstructing access to the region, putting countless lives in jeopardy.

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