Conflict in Tigray: Doctors and nurses beg for food in Ethiopia

January 28, 2022
A woman sells cereal in a Mikkeli market.

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No UN food convoy has arrived in Tigray since last December.

A doctor working in the largest hospital in Ethiopias war-torn Tigray region has confirmed to the BBC that some nurses and doctors have to beg for food to feed themselves.

He said they had not received their salaries for eight months, which forced them to find other ways to support their families.

This doctor’s account comes at a time when the United Nations reports that “severe famine” is hitting more people in Tigray.

The 14-month-old war in Ethiopia has led to a humanitarian crisis affecting millions.

Federal government forces have been fighting with rebels from the northern province of Tigray since November 2020, in a conflict that has claimed thousands of lives.

For most of the conflict, Tigray was cut off from the world, making it difficult to deliver vital aid and medical supplies. Banks are also closed, which means that people cannot access their savings or money to pay off their obligations to others.

As a result, 40 percent of Tigray’s 5.5 million people are “severely undernourished,” says the World Food Program in its latest assessment.

The program’s survey found that half of pregnant and breastfeeding women are malnourished.

The World Food Program adds that nine million people in Tigray and the two other areas affected by the fighting, Amhara and Afar, need some form of food assistance.

A map of Ethiopia showing the location of the Tigray region.

Doctors and nurses were not spared the suffering.

A doctor from Ayder Hospital in the provincial capital, Mikkeli, told the BBC, on condition of anonymity, that seeing nurses and doctors queuing to collect food parcels had become commonplace over the past seven months.

They haven’t been paid since May last year.

The doctor said, “Most of them had to reduce the number of daily meals they eat. Also, the prices of cooking oil, vegetables and grains rose so much that buying them became unlikely. Some started begging for food.”

The BBC is unable to verify the doctor’s account as most of Tigray has been cut off from communications since the start of the war.

No food convoy has arrived in Tigray since mid-December, but the World Food Program says 100 truckloads of food are needed every day in order to prevent famine in the region.

On Wednesday, the International Red Cross succeeded in delivering a shipment of medical supplies to the city of Mikkeli – the first since last September.

The United Nations is requesting $337 million to fund its operations in northern Ethiopia over the next six months.

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