Cut off from supplies: Tigray is threatened with measles and polio epidemics

A humanitarian catastrophe is looming in northern Ethiopia. There is a lack of food and much-needed medicine and vaccines. Medicines that are already in the country cannot be delivered because trucks are not allowed to continue their journey.

The humanitarian crisis in northern Ethiopia is worsening. According to the UN Emergency Aid Office (OCHA), the needy can only be cared for to a very limited extent, especially in the crisis region of Tigray. There are currently nine aid trucks in the city of Afar with medicines waiting for government approval to continue. Polio and measles vaccines are needed for hundreds of thousands of children in Tigray, according to the report. Failure to deliver these vaccines “will lead to an outbreak,” warn the authors. The supply of more than 5.2 million people with food and water is also only inadequately possible.

About 18,600 children under the age of five were taken to hospitals for severe malnutrition. The proportion of malnourished women with “around 63 percent” is also very high among pregnant and breastfeeding women, the OCHA continues.

The central government in Addis Ababa reportedly launched a new military offensive in the region earlier this week. OCHA described the security situation as “unpredictable” and there had been clashes in the border regions of Tigray in the past week.

Prime Minister and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Abiy Ahmed launched a military offensive in November against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which had been in power there until then. The TPLF dominated Ethiopia for a good 25 years until Prime Minister Abiy came to power in 2018 and ousted it.

Many people in Tigray feel that they are not represented by the central government and are demanding more autonomy. Since the beginning of August, the conflict has spread to the neighboring regions of Afar and Amhara. Aid organizations have only limited access to those in need because of the security situation and bureaucratic hurdles. Both parties to the conflict are accused of undermining humanitarian aid. At the end of September, the Ethiopian government expelled seven senior staff from UN humanitarian organizations. Other aid organizations such as Doctors Without Borders (MSF) also had to partially or completely stop work.