Over 5 million people face extreme hunger as the Tigray conflict surges past six months – Oxfam

Published: 3rd May 2021

Planting season comes to a halt as thousands of farmers lost tools, seeds, and livestock

Six months since the conflict erupted in Tigray, thousands of farmers have nothing to plant ahead of the rainy season as the crisis compounded by climate-fueled locust devastated their tools and livestock and pushed over 5 million people to extreme levels of hunger, warned Oxfam today.

Gezahegn Kebede Gebrehana, Oxfam’s Country Director in Ethiopia said:

“Farming should begin now ahead of the rainy season in June, but it has come to a total halt due to conflict and the absence of rain. Many farmers have no seeds to plant, and their oxen and tools were looted or destroyed in the conflict. Trade and market exchanges have stagnated as people fear a resurgence of fighting.”

More than 25% of the total production of Tigray was already destroyed in the last harvest, mostly by locust swarms. Most families have already depleted their food stocks. If this agricultural season is missed, the next harvest opportunity will not come for an additional 18 months.

Fantu Gezay, a farmer and a single mother of six living in Raya Azebo Woreda, Tigray told Oxfam: “The conflict erupted when farmers were about to harvest the produce left from the locust invasion. Whatever remained from the locust was destroyed by the war, and we couldn’t harvest the Teff and Maize crops.”

"An end to the human rights violations and the fighting can enable farmers to plough their fields and plant their crops in the coming months that will prevent millions from starving."

Parvin Ngala - HECA Acting Regional Director

Nearly 1.7 million people have been forced to flee their homes in Tigray; thousands of families are crammed in small rooms in schools or churches. Women and girls face an additional risk in such conditions. Shelters have no partitions and lack gender segregation which puts them at risk of sexual and gender-based violence.


Oxfam together with our local partners - the Organization for Rehabilitation and Development in the Amhara region (ORDA), and the Development and Inter-Church Aid Commission (DICAC) - have already reached 32,786 people in Tigray and north Amhara region with food, sanitation, and hygiene kits, as well as protection programmes. Oxfam urgently needs USD 10.78 million to support 225,000 people in Tigray and Amhara region by November, and help provide food, water, and sanitation facilities, as well as urgently needed hygiene and sleeping material. 

Oxfam calls upon the international community to support the humanitarian response in Ethiopia to help quickly mobilize resources and save lives. To date, despite rising humanitarian needs, only 58% of the total USD 1.3 billion Humanitarian Response Plan for the country, has been funded.

Parvin Ngala, Oxfam’s Acting Regional Director in Horn East and Central Africa (HECA) said: “We are urging parties to the conflict to agree to an immediate cessation of hostilities and find a peaceful resolution to this crisis. This will allow humanitarian agencies to reach peo­ple in need, for them to restart their lives. An end to the human rights violations and the fighting can enable farmers to plough their fields and plant their crops in the coming months that will prevent millions from starving.”

Notes to editors

  • Hunger figures are from UN OCHA report as of 27th April 2021. 5.2 million people in Tigray are now in urgent need of food assistance.
  • Oxfam has established offices in South Tigray at Mehoni Town and Southeast Tigray at Mekelle City (capital of Tigray Region), which will also oversee activities in Central Tigray.
  • Since the early 1970s, Oxfam has been working in Ethiopia to save lives and help over 1.8 million most vulnerable people out of poverty. Working closely with partners, we provide clean water, sanitation, and food, as well as assist marginalized farmers to get out of poverty through long-term development projects. Oxfam works on ending gender injustices and helping women.

Contact information

Spokespersons are available. Please contact:

Serawit Atnafu, Media and Communications Coordinator | +251 91 197 7910, SAtnafu@oxfam.org.uk

Martin Namasaka, Regional Media and Communications Advisor +254736666663, martin.namasaka@oxfam.org

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