Nobody dying from hunger in Ethiopia, says PMTue, 06 Feb 2024 15:31:30 GMT

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Tuesday denied that people were dying of hunger in the Horn of Africa nation, which is grappling with a major food crisis caused by internal conflict and climate disasters.His comments to parliament followed a warning that the number of people who are critically food insecure in Africa’s second most populous country could reach almost 11 million later this year.”There are no people dying due to hunger in Ethiopia,” Abiy told the lower house during a question-and-answer session with lawmakers.He acknowledged, however, that “people may have died” due to illnesses associated with malnutrition.Last month, Ethiopia’s national ombudsman said nearly 400 people had died of hunger in the conflict-hit northern regions of Tigray and Amhara — the first such claim by a federal institution.The head of the ombudsman body, which oversees good governance and respect for rule of law, told reporters the deaths had occurred over the last six months.The authorities in Tigray had warned in December of the risk of a looming famine linked to drought and the lingering effects of a brutal two-year war in the region.But a federal government spokesman dismissed the claims and said comparing the situation to the devastating famine in Ethiopia in the mid-1980s was “completely wrong”.Ethiopia’s disaster management agency and the UN warned last week that the impact of El Nino-driven drought was “ravaging communities in the highlands of Ethiopia” with severe water shortages, dried pastures and reduced harvests.”Millions of lives and livestock are affected, with reports of alarming food insecurity and rising malnutrition,” said a joint statement by National Disaster Risk Management Commission chief Shiferaw Teklemariam and UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Ethiopia Ramiz Alakbarov.”Malnutrition rates in parts of Afar, Amhara and Tigray and other regions have already surpassed globally recognised crisis thresholds, although the situation is currently not reflective of famine-like conditions,” it said.An assessment by the Ethiopian government and humanitarian partners concluded that the number of “critically food insecure people” would grow to a peak of 10.8 million during the July-September lean season, it added.Abiy said the government had released more than $250 million for food aid in the affected regions.”We can’t be blamed for ignoring drought and hunger,” he said. On Monday, Britain announced $125 million in aid for vulnerable people in Ethiopia, saying war, drought and crop failure had created a “growing risk of humanitarian catastrophe”.Several humanitarian sources have confirmed to AFP the gravity of the food crisis but indicated a lack of data to corroborate deaths directly due to hunger.