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‘Survival sex’! Women and girls resort to prostitution to survive in Tigray: Report

As the UN World Food Programme notified on Friday that nearly half of the population in Tigray, a war-torn region of Ethiopia, is struggling from a chronic lack of food and that conditions ‘are set to worsen as people enter peak hunger season,’ reports have revealed the depths of people’s desperation.

According to a Guardian report citing ‘reports from inside Tigray’, starvation in the besieged province of Tigray is driving people to increasingly desperate measures as a result of the government’s systematic blockade and seizure of remittances on which millions of people rely. According to the report, many women and girls are being forced to engage in sex work in order to survive.

In an interview with the Guardian, a 16-year-old girl described how the suffering of her parents and siblings drove her to sell her body on the streets. ‘ We had relatives in other countries sending us money through smugglers.  However, remittance smugglers are difficult to come by these days. Those we knew are no longer in operation. We sold every property we owned. There is nothing to eat at home. So I went out on the street to sell my body. What options do I have?’

This appears to be the story of many women and girls, some of whom are underage and others who once had promising careers. They’re having ‘survival sex’. Another interviewee, a 27-year-old woman with a master’s degree who had a good job, a good salary, and plans to pursue a Ph.D. before the war, described how she was forced to sell her body after her father died of hunger. This may come as a surprise, but she has money in her bank account. However, since being disconnected from the central federal system, banks in Tigray are now completely devoid of cash and have ceased issuing money.

‘I saw my father starve to death.  He died in my arms. My mother is all bones. There is enough food in the warehouses to feed the entire city. It is not necessary to use fuel to distribute aid within Mekelle. People are dying because they are unable to receive the assistance to which they are entitled. After losing my father to starvation, I needed to do something to save my own and my mother’s lives. Hunger does not give you time. I tried begging. But it doesn’t work because there are so many beggars. I became a prostitute’.

According to the World Food Programme’s most recent assessment, which covered the period from November 2021 to June 2022, 89% of Tigray’s six million inhabitants are food insecure or have inconsistent access to food.




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