We've seen and heard about a wide range of weaponry employed in conflicts up to this point. One of them is starvation, which occurs not because of the lack of harvesting or scarcity of food, but because people are purposefully starved. Ethiopia is experiencing a situation in which people are dying as a result of weaponized starvation/famine.
What is the concept of weaponized starvation?
For decades, hunger has been utilized as a weapon of war. During times of war, withholding food can be just as dangerous as the weapons such as guns, bombs, and explosives used by the opponents.
Acts of commission, omission, and provision are the three types of political acts that create famine: Attacks on food production, markets, and people's freedom of movement are all examples of commission acts. Whereas, when food aid is halted, it is considered as omission and the selective provision of aid to one side of a war is known as provision.
The concept is quickly changing. It now includes destroying or denying civilians access to crops and farm animals, water and water infrastructure, medical facilities, and though this has yet to be proven in court the access to markets and employment opportunities are also targeted.
In 2018, the UN Security Council (UNSC) passed a resolution prohibiting the use of hunger as a weapon of war, specifically acknowledging the relationship between war and hunger.
The mentioned issues affect not only people who live in combat zones but also people who live in areas with long-term political instability.
What is happening in Ethiopia?
Ethiopia is in a dire situation, with millions of people dying of starvation. The situation is not unintentional rather starvation is used as a weapon of war.
On Nov. 3, fighting erupted in Tigray, which followed months of rising tensions between Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the Tigray People's Liberation Front, the region's dominant party that led Ethiopia's government coalition from 1991 to 2018.
Abiy authorized an invasion of the region after accusing the TPLF of planning an attack on a federal military camp, promising a quick "law enforcement operation" to apprehend the rebel Tigrayan leadership.
On November 4, 2020, PM Ahmed declared war in Tigray causing over 60,000 citizens to flee to Sudan. Currently, in Tigray's region, there is no access to electricity, clean water, or the internet. Banks and phone lines only work in Mekelle, the capital city, with some restrictions. Food, medication, fuel, and cash are in short supply.
As Ethiopia's war enters its fifth month, millions of displaced people in Tigray's northern region face famine. Main food supply routes have been disrupted, and farms have been destroyed as a result of the conflict.
Many people have lost their jobs, and the supplies that are still accessible have skyrocketed in price.
As per reports, more than 4.5 million people need emergency food in Tigray. Administrators and NGO officials in Tigray stated that if help is not provided, hundreds of thousands of people may starve to death. People are already dying as a result of malnutrition and contaminated water. According to Doctors, in the towns of Adigrat, Adwa, and Axum civilian casualties are especially high.
What caused the crisis of starvation in Ethiopia?
In the past months, Eritrean troops have looted markets, small shops, and even homes, not to mention the crops that were ready for harvesting were also set ablaze by Eritrean forces and the Amhara militia. Tigray's roads, hospitals, government/NGO buildings were also damaged during the war.
The Economist, January 2021 states, "Ethiopia's government appears to be wielding hunger as a weapon" as the Tigray region is "being starved into submission."
According to the UN, this is a human-caused tragedy, with the Ethiopian Ministry of Peace intentionally creating red tape.' There is plenty of food available. For months, humanitarian organizations and UN agencies have tried to get supplies through. The Orwellian Ministry of Peace in Ethiopia, on the other hand, has set them on a paper chase seeking permissions."
The UN Humanitarian Chief, Mark Lowcock, states, "For more than two months there have been no essentials access to Tigray... There are 450 tonnes of supplies we've been trying to get in that are stuck."
'Call To Action' in Ethiopia
In Tigray, hunger is being used as a weapon, with marketplaces robbed, crops burned, no electricity/water, and banks/humanitarian corridors shuttered.
Ethiopia's government has once again failed Tigrayan citizens. What must be done now to save the people?
To begin with, the international community should call for the withdrawal of Eritrean troops from Tigray and should demand that the Ethiopian government take the following actions immediately:
- In all of Tigray, open banks and provide complete financial services
- Unlimited humanitarian access to be allowed throughout Tigray
- Allow unlimited access to local and international media; and Restore Tigray's damaged infrastructure (roads and hospitals).
- The World Food Programme (WFP) should quickly coordinate food airdrops to Tigray's most remote districts.
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