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‘Wrenching’ exclusive: Grim consequences of Tigray siege

In this photo provided anonymously, Genet Mehari, 5, is treated for malnutrition with medications limited, at the Ayder Referral Hospital in Mekele, in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia, Sept. 28, 2021, in a photo provided anonymously. In the regional capital Mekele, a year of war and months of government-enforced deprivation have left the city of a half-million people with a rapidly shrinking stock of food, fuel, medicine and cash. (AP Photo)


Nairobi-based East Africa correspondent Cara Anna and chief photographer Ben Curtis drew from a dozen exclusive interviews, plus photos and video from sources in Mekele, the capital of Ethiopia’s Tigray region, to paint the most personal and detailed portrait yet of life under a deadly government blockade.

The increasing death and deprivation in the Tigray region have been largely hidden from the world. But Anna and Curtis in Nairobi, and two stringers based in Ethiopia — unnamed for their security — obtained interviews with Mekele residents, internal aid documents and rare images showing children suffering from malnutrition and lack of medications.

Using fragile periods of limited internet connectivity to the region otherwise cut off from communications, they spoke with suffering parents, university lecturers, a Catholic priest and others for details that made the story widely used and shared: A woman who killed herself because she was no longer able to feed her children, desperate people going directly from an aid distribution site to the roadside to sell humanitarian items, the flour and oil for Communion bread soon to run out. “Gut-wrenching … It was as if you had managed to make it to Tigray,” one reader commented.

Last month, the AP was first to report on deaths from starvation under the blockade, but this story showed the wider ravages of the lack of medication, fuel and cash. The director general of the World Health Organization tweeted the story to his 1.5 million followers, just one of several high-profile shares.

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