Seven malnourished children have died in the month since the US and the UN suspended food aid to Ethiopia’s war-ravaged Tigray region, doctors at the biggest hospital there say.
That marked increase in May makes up more than half of the 13 total deaths since the start of year, staff at the Ayder Referral Hospital in Mekelle told the BBC.
What’s more, medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) says nearly 70% of health facilities in Tigray have been deliberately vandalised and had equipment looted to make them “non-functional”.
At present, 32 children are in very critical condition and receiving treatment in an intensive care unit at the Ayder Referral Hospital.
“Children in the ward are most vulnerable and couldn’t recover with food assistance outside of the hospital,” medic Simret Nigusse told the BBC’s Tigrinya service, adding that international humanitarian agencies were wrong to halt operations in Tigray.
USAid and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) froze aid to Tigray after discovering that food shipments were being diverted and sold at local markets.
This week both went a step further, announcing they would be suspending food to the whole of Ethiopia, with some exceptions for only the most vulnerable.
Tigray suffered from dire shortages of food, fuel, cash and medicines during a brutal two-year conflict between forces loyal to Ethiopia’s government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.
The conflict came to an end last November when the two sides signed a peace deal in South Africa. Aid then began trickling in, though some areas still remain inaccessible.