The first medically verified assessment of the post-Pretoria Agreement hunger-related mortality in Tigray revealed a staggering 1,329 deaths Tuesday that is attributed to starvation following food aid cuts.

The surge in deaths coincided with the suspension of food aid by the World Food Programme (WFP) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) across Ethiopia, including Tigray.

The suspension, attributed to the diversion of shipments to illicit sales in local markets, has had devastating consequences for a region already grappling with conflict, drought, and famine.

A study conducted by the Tigray Health Research Institute, the Tigray Bureau of Health and Mekelle University, College of Health Science, warned about an escalating hunger crisis since aid suspension in March 2023.

“The lowest number of deaths since November occurred in March 2023, when the food suspension began, and increased each month thereafter,” it said.

In July, researchers recorded 305 deaths, with under 7% in medical facilities and more than 90% at home, exposing limited healthcare access.

“More than 71% of the deceased only consumed one meal a day in the month prior to their deaths and in 89% of cases, families reported that the deceased did not have enough food to satisfy their hunger in the month prior to their death,” it said.

Starvation was the leading cause of death for all ages, making up 60% of Internally Displaced Persons IDPs fatalities and 49% of host community deaths.

Following the signing of the Pretoria Peace Agreement between the federal government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Forces (TPLF) in November 2022, control of the region transitioned to the TPLF, and the organization underwent disarmament.

Specially trained medical teams were deployed to record deaths occurring after the deal in nine woredas (districts) and among internally displaced populations in five towns across Tigray.

The teams collected information about the deceased and conducted verbal autopsies with family members for all individuals older than one month old who had died of causes other than accidents and injuries.

The comprehensive report, which encompasses data from nine woredas and 53 IDP centers in five towns (Maichew, Mekelle, Abi Addi, Adigrat, and Shire), paints a grim picture of the region’s situation.

The study’s findings point to the food aid cuts as the primary driver behind the escalating death toll.

Notably, the lowest number of deaths occurred in March 2023 when the food suspension began, with fatalities steadily rising each subsequent month.

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