There has been a rise in the number of people in need of humanitarian food aid across northern Ethiopia to an estimated 9.4 million. This comes as a direct result of the ongoing conflict, as announced by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). Amhara region, which has been the worst hit, has had the largest jump in numbers with the people in immediate need of humanitarian aid being 3.7 million. More than 80% of the people across northern Ethiopia who are in need of assistance are behind battle lines. It is crucial that food assistance cross those battle lines to reach the families in need.
Last week, WFP delivered food to more than 10,000 people in the Amhara towns of Kombolcha and Dessie in place of the Joint Emergency Operation (JEOP). These distributions are the first to happen in these towns since almost a month ago when they were taken over by Tigray Forces. In the same week, WFP was only given full access to its warehouses in the region. Across North Ethiopia, the nutrition situation is only deteriorating with screening data taken from all three regions depicting malnutrition rates for children being between 16%-28%. Even more shockingly, of the pregnant and breastfeeding women screened in Tigray and Amhara, up to 50% were also found to be malnourished.
To date, the number of people WFP has reached with emergency food and nutrition aid across northern Ethiopia is more than 3.2 million. This includes 875,000 vulnerable mothers and children who got nutritionally fortified food in Amhara and Tigray regions. United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) flights into Tigray resumed on Wednesday, thus rotating the first batch of humanitarian workers into and out of the region since the security incident that happened on 22 October.
WFP is in need of 1 million liters of fuel to cater for transport to the 7.8 million people who are now behind the battle lines and in immediate need of food assistance. Tigray Authorities have enabled the availability of fuel for WFP in Kombolcha, with an initial 45,000 liters batch already underway to support the ramp-up of food assistance in Tigray. A convoy loaded with life-saving food worth 2,200 metric tons is expected to arrive in the coming days in Mekelle, with 35 trucks having already arrived so far. Additionally, trucks from Kombolcha loaded with food were sent into Southern Tigray last week.
Owing to the recent offenses on Amhara and Afar by Tigray as well as severe barriers in clearances from Federal Government, corridors into Tigray had been closed. Since mid-July, the supplies that have entered the region are less than a third of the amount needed to meet the estimated humanitarian food needs. In this current round of food aid, WFP has managed to reach 180,000 people in Tigray, which is just 7% of the 2.5 million the agency needs to reach. In Amhara, WFP has managed to reach over 220,000 people with food and nutrition aid and is ramping up to reach 650,000 people. In Afar, WFP has managed to distribute food to 124,000 people out of its 534,000 target.
The response of WFP in Northern Ethiopia urgently requires US$316 million to provide assistance over the coming six months. Across the whole country, WFP has an unprecedented US$579 million funding gap to save and change 12 million people’s lives over the next six months. Shortages in funding have already forced ration cuts for 2.4 million food-insecure people and some 710,000 refugees in the Somali region. For more updates on the situation in Ethiopia, subscribe to our newsletter to get daily updates.