Starvation in Tigray will cause permanent medical complications even in survivors

This week UN reports over 400,000 are at the famine stage and 2 million are at the brink.

When many people hear about starvation they assume that intervention that is done when many start to die will result in complete reversal of ill health. Unfortunately the reality is that moderately severe starvation for just a few months can lead to permanent disability and premature death even once proper nutrition has been re-established.  The World Food Program and other agencies announcement that 40% of Tigrayans are suffering severe hunger means that even for those that have not yet died they may already have contracted a permanent condition. This  is especially so for children.

Thus the urgency of a rapid and comprehensive response to the growing Tigray famine is absolute. Severe decline in brain function, child growth stunting, diabetes, increased birth maternal and child mortality, birth defects, and lowered resistance to infectious diseases such as tuberculosis (endemic in Ethiopia) have been well recognized since World War II in civilian populations deprived in war.  Children who survived then in adulthood showed increased levels of diabetes and heart disease leading to premature death.

Author: Professor Tony Magana

Professor Tony Magana is Head of the Department of Neurosurgery, School of Medicine, College of Health Sciences at Mekelle University in Mekelle, Ethiopia. He directs a neurosurgery residency and training program as well as neuroscience research.

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