Competing Crises Fuel Hunger in Ethiopia

Editor’s note: In the September 2022 issue of ONE, Olivia Poust reports on food insecurity in Ethiopia. “Cries of Hunger” explains how the war in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray Region, drought and the global grain and fuel shortage all contribute to this ongoing crisis. Olivia shares updates from CNEWA’s regional director for Ethiopia, Argaw Fantu, in this audio report. A full transcript follows.

The landform of Ethiopia is the picture of geographical variance. Highlands, lowlands, rift valleys and plateaus all contribute to the identity of a place with incredible diversity across culture, language, ethnicity and even, quite significantly, meteorology. So how and why is a multiform place like Ethiopia experiencing food insecurity on a shared national level?

To answer this question, I spoke with CNEWA’s regional director for Ethiopia, Argaw Fantu, about the situation on the ground. Mr. Fantu broke the causes down into three categories: conflict in the north, drought, and a global grain and fuel shortage.

He provided updates on the first two of these points as follows.

Following the resurgence of war in the northern Tigray Region on 24 August, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, or TPLF, agreed to a ceasefire in early September, news which Mr. Fantu received via TPLF media on 11 September. However, he noted that there is still reported fighting in the region, though communication in the area remains restricted. He says it is “difficult to predict what will be next” and that “it is very hard to understand the real situation on the ground on either side.”

“We rarely receive, also, communication because there is no communication still — no telephone and no internet. So these are some of the challenges…

“We are also hoping and dreaming that this conflict will come into peaceful terms, but on the other hand, we don’t know what’s going on,” says Mr. Fantu.

Because of the continued conflict, the region is once again cut off from international relief agencies like the World Food Program, which has suspended all movements into Tigray since late August, according to Mr. Fantu.

Other areas of the country remain affected by food insecurity because of the ongoing drought, or as a result of the war on Ukraine and the subsequent grain and fuel shortage. The rain pattern has improved since the summer, but Mr. Fantu says that it will still be another two to three months for grain and crops to grow.

“The magnitude of challenge, the magnitude of problems are quite innumerable. But even passing through all these challenging situations, most people are very, very hopeful. They are optimists, they hope,” says Mr. Fantu.

“For people in this part of the world, in particular Ethiopia, even if we are suffering or we have so many problems, what sustains us is hope. Otherwise, everything would have collapsed by now.”

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