Will Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy lift genocidal embargo against Tigray? Photo: Wikimedia Commons.
In a statement on March 18, 2022, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Gebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization, said: “Even amid the war in Ukraine there is nowhere on Earth where people are more at risk than the isolated region of northern Ethiopia.”
Bloomberg News of March 3, 2022 headlined, “War Toll Grows as the World looks by”, The Globe and Mail of Canada also had front page headline, “Tigray War has seen up to half a million dead from violence and starvation”. Both were citing findings of a meticulous research by Ghent University. In it, Prof. Jan Nyssen estimates that 150,000 to 200,000 have died from starvation and 100,000 from lack of medical care. War casualties are estimated at 50,000-100,000.
These are staggering figures and by all accounts, underestimations.
The World Food Program says 40% of the population in Tigray suffer from “extreme lack of food”, euphemism for famine, a term which carries with it responsibility to act, failure to do so implying complicity or dereliction of duty. Forty percent translates to 2.4 million out of 6 million population of Tigray. As numbing as these numbers are, they do not take into account the wounded and maimed, and the survivors of the horrific gender-based violence who are condemned to suffer physical and psychological trauma for the remainder of their lives. The withholding of food and medicine throughout the duration of the war is a new low in war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Dare we hope that peace is finally breaking out following the statements by the warring parties of a cease fire agreement to allow for humanitarian assistance to reach the starving people of Tigray?
We have not as yet seen any evidence of the assistance getting through. Past promises by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to do so when pressed by the U.S. and UN agencies have come to naught, hence reason to be vigilant. In addition, the people of Tigray have been in total darkness for over a year with no internet, telephone, electricity, and banking services. Public employees have not been paid since the war began and doctors and nurses at the Mekelle teaching hospital, not only have not been able to do their job for lack of medicine and equipment but have been reduced to begging for food like many of their fellow Tigreans.
The full accounting of the atrocities in Tigray committed by the Ethiopian national army and its Eritrean and Somali military allies as well as militia from the adjoining Amhara state is yet to be uncovered. The immediate task for the international community now is to take advantage of the current lull in hostilities and demand of the Ethiopian government full access to the region to deliver immediate humanitarian assistance unfettered.
The resumption of basic services in Tigray needs to occur concurrently in hopes of a permanent ceasefire for a meaningful and all-inclusive dialogue about the future of Tigray and Ethiopia to follow.
Mohammed A. Nurhussein, MD