Pope Francis has ordered that humanitarian aid reach starving people in northern Ethiopia’s war-torn Tigray, where Ethiopian and Eritrean military are obstructing food and other help delivery.
Francis called for an immediate end to the fighting in Tigray, the restoration of social harmony, and the provision of “all food aid and health care assistance.”
In his Sunday noon blessing, Francis said he was thinking of the people of Tigray, who have been “struck by a grave humanitarian crisis that has exposed the poorest to famine.” Today, there is famine. There is hunger.”
According to the UN and aid organizations, more than 350,000 people in Tigray face famine, with another 2 million on the verge of the worst famine in Somalia since 2011. Farmers, aid workers, and local officials claim that food has been turned into a weapon of war, with soldiers preventing or stealing food aid.
Over 2 million of Tigray’s 6 million people have fled, unable to harvest their crops. Tigray’s war began in November, just before harvest season, as an attempt by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to disarm the region’s rebellious leaders.
On one side, there are guerrillas loyal to Tigray’s deposed and now-fugitive leaders. On the other side are Ethiopian government troops, allied troops from neighboring Eritrea, and militias from Ethiopia’s Amhara ethnic group, who see themselves as rivals to the Tigrayan guerrillas.