The Ethiopian Prime Minister announces the formation of an ad hoc committee for dialogue on the issue of the Tigray region where, following the intervention of the federal army a year and a half ago, a more or less civil conflict broke out. less latent. Although access to humanitarian aid has been unblocked for months, the situation of the population remains dire, as confirmed by UNICEF Representative Gianfranco Rottigliano in the African country.
Fausta Speranza – Vatican City
Today, for the first time, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has spoken out about the possibility of peace talks with the group he considers rebels in the regional state of Tigray, against which the federal government launched an offensive. turn into civil war 19 months ago. . Denying rumors that there have been secret talks with the Tigray Liberation Front (Tplf), Abiy said the government has set up a committee to look into the possibility of negotiations. “It’s not easy to negotiate. There is a lot of work to be done and a commission has been set up,” he said. The new body will be led by Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonen, who is also the foreign minister and will draw up a report detailing the preconditions for the negotiations, he added. This decision follows the government’s declaration of an “indefinite humanitarian truce” in March, which paved the way for humanitarian aid, capable of reaching Tigray for the first time since mid-December. The conflict has pushed hundreds of thousands of people to the brink of starvation, displacing more than two million Ethiopians and leaving more than nine million at the mercy of food aid, according to the UN. “Peace is not something that can be hidden,” Abiy told lawmakers in response to rumors of talks with the rebels. “We are saying that we want peace; that is not to say that we are negotiating in secret. Secret negotiations have no consistency.”
Children are the first victims of the nutritional crisis
A growing and deadly nutritional crisis is underway in the Afar region of Ethiopia. This is the testimony of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) calling for an urgent increase in the humanitarian response. In this area, hundreds of thousands of people fleeing the recent conflict have found themselves, along with host communities, struggling with drought, famine and a surprising lack of access to health care and clean water. “What scares us the most is that what we see is just the tip of the iceberg, and it’s already overwhelming,” said Raphael Veicht, MSF’s emergency coordinator in Addis Ababa.
At Dupti Hospital, the only hospital operating in the entire Afar region, children arrive after incredibly long and difficult journeys, many dying in less than 48 hours because they are too sick and too malnourished to survive, he said. confirmed the UNICEF representative in Ethiopia. Gianfranco Rottigliano we contacted by phone in the north of the country:
Since April, Rottigliano has confirmed that humanitarian organizations have been able to increase the flow of aid to the population of one or the other opposition side, including hundreds of thousands of displaced people, but the needs remain high. This year, the number of severely malnourished children admitted to the facility has already exceeded three or four times that of the previous year. Patient mortality rates are incredibly high, surpassing 20% in just a few weeks. 35 children have died in the last 8 weeks, two out of three in the 48 hours following hospitalization. In the north, Rottigliano explains, many people do not have access to minimum levels of health care, food and water due to the recent conflict, displacement, lack of access to health care, food shortages, and of the insufficient humanitarian response due also to – he explains – to the Ukrainian crisis that has absorbed some resources.
Food and seeds
Urgent and necessary, says the UNICEF representative, is a large-scale humanitarian action aimed at displaced people and vulnerable host communities, providing food security, safe drinking water and basic health care. Nearly two-thirds of hospitalized malnourished children come from displaced families: damaged, destroyed, abandoned or under-resourced, with only 20% of health centers in the Afar region working, for example. Thousands of people, says Rottigliano, are struggling to survive not only in the areas hardest hit by the conflict, but also in various parts of Ethiopia. In the Somali region, although the rains have finally begun, people are still facing the challenges of food and water insecurity caused by a long period of drought. The only answer to a food crisis is to make sure people have access to food. Without an urgent strengthening of the humanitarian response, those already suffering the horrors of conflict, displacement and drought will be pushed even closer to survival. And Rottigliano also highlights a key aspect for the coming months: not only do we need food for today, he warns, but there is an extreme need to insure seeds to ensure the next agricultural season.