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Hunger kills hundreds of kids in Ethiopia’s Tigray

ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA (AP) – At least 1,900 children under five have died from malnutrition in Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region in the past year, according to a study conducted by regional health officials and seen by The Associated Press (AP).

The deaths were recorded at health facilities across Tigray between June last year and April 1. Western Tigray, which is under the control of forces from the neighbouring Amhara region, was not included in the survey.

A doctor involved in the study said the true number of child deaths from malnutrition is likely higher as most families are unable to bring their children to health centres because of transportation challenges.

“Because we cannot access most areas, we do not know what is happening on the community level,” said the doctor, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisals.

“These are simply the deaths we have managed to record in health facilities.”

Tigray has been cut off from the rest of Ethiopia since June when fighters from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) recaptured most of the region.

A worker walks next to sacks of food for the Tigray and Afar regions in a World Food Programme warehouse in Semera, Ethiopia. PHOTO: AP

Banking services, phone lines and road links are all down in the region, a situation the United Nations (UN) said amounts to a “de facto blockade”.

More than 90 per cent of Tigray’s 5.5 million people require humanitarian assistance, including 115,000 children who are severely malnourished, according to UN figures.

The children of families living in urban areas are especially at risk, as their parents don’t have farmland to grow food, health officials said.

Around 700,000 people in Tigray are in the grip of “famine-like conditions”, United States officials estimate.

Ethiopia’s federal government unilaterally declared a “humanitarian truce” on March 24, an announcement it said would allow aid into Tigray.

But nearly one month later, only four convoys of around 80 food trucks have entered the region.

“Literally nothing has changed,” said an aid worker.

“We are just seeing a handful of trucks. These trucks are better than nothing but they are not going to feed the millions of people who need aid (in Tigray).”

An estimated 2,000 trucks of food must enter Tigray every week to meet the region’s needs, a UN official said at a meeting on Wednesday, according to the aid worker, who attended.

Some health officials in Tigray said they simply don’t have enough supplies to treat many patients.

Some who recently spoke to AP said shortages are so dire that some patients’ relatives must buy medicines from private pharmacies at inflated prices and bring them to the hospital before their family members can be treated.