More than 350,000 people are living in famine conditions in Ethiopia, according to analysis by a UN-backed initiative that monitors food security.
The Integrated Phase Classification (IPC) uses five levels to measure food security from “minimal food insecurity” up to the worst level “catastrophe” meaning famine – though it is usually up to governments to declare a famine.
The IPC’s analysis was conducted in northern Tigray, where war broke out in November, and neighbouring regions of Amhara and Afar between May and June this year.
“This is the highest number of people in IPC Phase Five since the 2011 famine in Somalia,” its report said.
“This severe crisis results from the cascading effects of conflict, including population displacements, movement restrictions, limited humanitarian access, loss of harvest and livelihood assets, and dysfunctional or non-existent markets.”
It said that as of May that 5.5 million people were facing high levels of acute food insecurity. This was the breakdown for the other phases:
- 3.1 million people were in crisis (IPC Phase Three)
- 2.1 million people were in emergency (IPC Phase Four).
The situation was likely to worsen through to September, it said.
The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Food Programme (WFP) and children’s agency Unicef have called for urgent action to address the crisis.
“Rural communities in northern Ethiopia have been particularly affected by the conflict. Many farms have been destroyed and productive assets such as seeds and livestock lost,” said FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu.
WFP Executive Director David Beasley said there were many areas UN staff could not reach.
“We have appealed for humanitarian access but are still being blocked by armed groups. The ability of people in Tigray to access vital services and for WFP to reach them with food assistance is essential to avoid a catastrophe.
“Access must be extended well beyond major cities to reach people in desperate need wherever they may be, with adequate assistance and without delay.”
The IPC said its report had not been endorsed by Ethiopia’s government.