The Irish Times view of famine in Ethiopia: No natural disaster

Diplomats and agencies say 350,000 people in Tigray region are suffering from famine

As famine once again stalks Ethiopia, aggravated, in good measure, by ethnic violence and a deepening economic crisis, voters are going to the polls. Prime minister Abiy Ahmed desperately seeks a popular mandate to bolster his position against growing international and domestic criticism. He will get his mandate easily, but no improvement in international standing for his handling of a humanitarian catastrophe of his own making.

Western diplomats, the UN and humanitarian agencies say 350,000 people in the Tigray region are suffering from famine, with several million more threatened by acute lack of food. Unicef says 33,000 children are in imminent danger of death. The tragedy is a terrible echo of the infamous, devastating famine of 1983-85, also manmade. Once again, history is repeating itself in the terrible fallout from an internal war centred on the Tigray province in which, again, food has become a weapon of war and civilians are expendable. All exaggerated, Addis Ababa claims, as it blames hunger on climate change.

Any Other Business

At the UN Security Council, where Ireland has been among those demanding words and action, the consensus necessary to make Ethiopia a formal agenda item has not even been forthcoming – it is consigned to Any Other Business.

Expressions of concern in resolutions on the humanitarian crisis and over food access blocked by armed gangs, and an eventual welcome for a UN human rights investigation, are hedged with language that must avoid any suggestion of a moral equivalence between the government and the “criminal” Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). So no talk of a ceasefire, or any suggestion the famine is manmade.


And the belated admission by Addis that, yes, Eritrean troops, accused by human rights groups of massacres, are indeed in Tigray fighting the TPLF is accompanied only by a half-hearted pledge that they will be leaving soon.

Cold comfort for the beleaguered and starving Tigrayan people from a UN that the veto powers deliberately leave toothless.