Are we about re-run the catastrophic Ethiopian famine of 1984-85?
“Dawn, and as the sun breaks through the piercing chill of night on the plains outside Korem, it lights up a biblical famine, now, in the 20th century.”
On 23rd October 1984 the BBC correspondent, Michael Buerk sent this report. It described a famine that left more than 1 million people dead. The report from Korem described people dying every twenty minutes. The situation only got worse.
The report shocked the world into action.
But are we on the verge of repeating this tragedy?
Aid agencies are issuing warnings now
This report from the Associated Press quotes the Red Cross:
The Tigray region remains largely cut off from the outside world and Ethiopia has blocked almost all journalists from entering, complicating efforts to verify assertions by the warring sides.
Meanwhile, humanitarian workers have had limited access to the estimated 6 million people in Tigray as food and other supplies run short and concerns about starvation grow.
The situation is “deteriorating every day, every minute,” the president of the Ethiopian Red Cross Society, Ato Abera Tola, told reporters on Thursday as Red Cross entities appealed for more financial support. “There is no area which is not affected by this conflict … the conflict is everywhere.”
The Ethiopia head of delegation for the International Committee for the Red Cross, Katia Sorin, said they still had not been able to reach rural areas of Tigray, a largely agricultural region. The ICRC is one of the few international organizations to maintain its operations in Tigray after fighting began.
“We’re helping, but it’s a drop in the ocean of need,” Sorin said.
The BBC quoted leaked notes from meetings of aid workers.
“Hundreds of thousands might starve to death” in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, according to a government official quoted in a leaked copy of notes taken at a meeting of humanitarian workers.
This crisis is made so much worse by the presence of Eritrean troops in Tigray. As the US State Department has said, it has:
“credible reports of looting, sexual violence, assaults in refugee camps and other human rights abuses. There is also evidence of Eritrean soldiers forcibly returning Eritrean refugees from Tigray to Eritrea.”
The world has been warned – but will it take images like those from 1984-85 before we see action?