The persistent conflict in the Tigray region of Ethiopia has deepened the tragedy of the famine. And it ought now to arouse the world’s conscience in the context of reports that an estimated 33,000 children in Tigray risk death from hunger. The storm-centre has been devastated by fighting between government forces and rebels, with 1.7 million people displaced since the conflict began in November last year. A UN-backed study released on Thursday found that 353,000 people in the region were living in “severe crisis”. The Ethiopian government disputes the finding, saying aid is getting through.

However, it can’t cover its tracks with such unsubstantiated claims. The nub of the matter must be that about 33,000 severely malnourished children in the Tigray region are at high risk of death, the UN children’s agency Unicef has warned. Going by Thursday’s assessment, the food situation in the region has reached the level of a “catastrophe”, which it defines as starvation and death affecting small groups of people spread over large areas. It is a measure of the dire food crisis that Unicef has called for humanitarian access to the cut-off areas in Tigray. The epithet of “man-made famine” matters but little to the starving and the families of the dead. In terms of social history, the targeted government will scarcely acknowledge responsibility.

“While this figure of 353,000 does not meet the threshold needed (20 per cent of surveyed population) to trigger a formal famine declaration, let’s not play with terminology when people are dying,” Unicef spokesperson James Elder said on Friday. About 33,000 are young children; babies are dangerously close to sickness and potential death from malnutrition, according to Unicef. A further two million people are categorised as being on the brink of “severe crisis”.

Ethiopia has rejected the claim by the UN’s humanitarian chief, Mark Lowcock, that there is famine in the northern parts of the country. The United States and the European Union have jointly urged all warring parties to agree to a ceasefire to allow aid to reach millions in dire need and to prevent large-scale famine.

The government in Addis Ababa claims that the Eritrean troops, who have been involved in the conflict, have started withdrawing from the Tigray region following months of international pressure calling on them to leave the area.
|While adults are engaged in a seemingly relentless conflict for more than six months, children are starving… tragically to the point of death.

In a swathe of Africa, the adult ~ whether in Ethiopia or Eritrea ~ has failed the child. The word must wake up.