The United Nations has said that 10.1 million Ethiopians will need feeding in 2016. Save the Children calls this the worst famine in 50 years.

But look at this map – produced by the UN on 4 December.

Ethiopia droughtSome of the most severly effected areas are along the Ethiopian border with Eritrean. And droughts don’t stop at frontiers.

Yet no-one – not the UN, not Save the Children or anyone else – is saying anything about what is happening to the people inside Eritrea itself.

This is at least in part because the Eritrean government does not allow international NGO’s to operate freely inside the country.

In May 2005 the Eritrean authorities insisted that all staff pay income tax and then imposed taxes on all imports – including medicines and food aid. In February 2006 Italian NGOs were forced to leave and most others followed. Even the UN is strictly limited in what it can do and where it can travel.

The result? There is almost no independent assessment of what is really taking place inside Eritrea.

The government publishes no official accounts. Even the World Bank and IMF have almost no reliable statistics. The country is a statistical dead-end.

This is underlined by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation. In its annual “State of Food Insecurity in the World” it says:

The lack of reliable information on food availability and access prevents a sound analysis of the PoU (prevalence of undernourishment) for countries such as Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea and Somalia, hence their exclusion, but food security indicators for which data are available suggest that their levels of undernourishment remain very high.

So who knows what is taking place now that drought and famine stalk the Horn of Africa?

Only the Eritrean government and the people who are forced to suffer in silence.