Crisis is a ‘stain on our conscience’ says Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs

 The crisis in Ethiopia is a “stain on our conscience,” the United Nations humanitarian chief said, as children and others starve to death in the Tigray region under what the U.N. has called a de facto government blockade of food, medical supplies and fuel.

In an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday, Martin Griffiths issued one of the most sharply worded criticisms yet of the world’s worst hunger crisis in a decade after nearly a year of war. Memories of the 1980s famine in Ethiopia, which killed some 1 million people and whose images shocked the world, are vivid in his mind, “and we fervently hope is not happening at present,” he said.

“That’s what keeps people awake at night,” Griffiths said, “is worrying about whether that’s what is in prospect, and in prospect soon.”

He described a landscape of deprivation inside Tigray, where the malnutrition rate is now over 22% — “roughly the same as we saw in Somalia in 2011 at the start of the Somali famine,” which killed more than a quarter-million people.

The war in Ethiopia began last November on the brink of harvest in Tigray, and the U.N. has said at least half of the coming harvest will fail. Witnesses have said Ethiopian and allied forces destroyed or looted food sources.

Meanwhile just 10% of needed humanitarian supplies have been reaching Tigray in recent weeks, Griffiths said.

“So people have been eating roots and flowers and plants instead of a normal steady meal,” he said.

“The lack of food will mean that people will start to die.”

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