NAIROBI, Kenya — Bishop Tesfaselassie Medhin of Adigrat, Ethiopia, has sent out an SOS call for swift humanitarian aid in Tigray to save millions of people facing death due to a “merciless man-made famine” in the war-torn region.
While condemning the war atrocities, the bishop acknowledged individuals, institutions, governments and partners working tirelessly to bring hope to the region’s people. He warned of mass deaths unless relief aid urgently reached the area soon.
“This is a dire call once again for a swift action by all concerned and competent international communities to save the lives of the millions of people at the verge of death from a merciless man-made famine in Tigray,” he said.
“The current pace to deliver the promises (of aid) on the ground is not bringing any meaningful change on the lives of the people … who have been under siege of (and) total blockade for over 500 days from all basic services and rights,” Medhin said in a statement April 6.
“In this critical moment, we desperately call upon the international community to take a quick action to save millions of people in Tigray from perishing, before it reaches (an) irreversible level,” he said.
The bishop’s call came days after the government announced a humanitarian truce in the region to allow aid to reach the populations, caught in a war between the government forces and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front fighters. The TPLF has agreed to the humanitarian truce for the war, which started in November 2020.
Until the truce, the government had been accused of blocking aid for the region, but it has blamed the TPLF for obstructing delivery.
In Ethiopia and worldwide, religious leaders have considered the war insane and inhuman, while calling for peace and humanitarian aid. Last month, the Conference of Catholic Bishops in Ethiopia launched a humanitarian response for Tigray and the neighboring regions affected by the war.
But Tesfaselassie is concerned that the pace at which the humanitarian aid was moving into the region was too slow compared to the magnitude and intensity of the crises there. He feared the aid would not be able to reach the region on time to save millions of people.
The bishop said it was deeply hurtful and unacceptable to see mothers, children and adults dying every single minute for lack of God-given rights to life and to the basic services, and the failure of the negotiated humanitarian aid to reach the population.
With the total blockade in Tigray, the scale of the humanitarian need was immense, he said, noting that much of the population — including professionals — had to beg to survive.
He said the Catholic Church in Tigray wants unrestricted humanitarian aid access in the region, all services and rights — including food, medicine, banking services, all forms of communication, supplies in the markets, and other social services — to be allowed there and other regions where it is needed. He also called for the withdrawal of the occupying forces from Tigray and for all people to be allowed to return home.
The church also wants a peaceful dialogue to bring the conflict to an end and stop the war crimes there.