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Documenting the humanitarian situation and civilian mortality in the Tigray war --- Presentation at a hearing organized by the Health Professionals Network for Tigray, 4 April 2022

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Documenting the humanitarian situation and civilian mortality in the Tigray war --- Presentation at a hearing organized by the Health Professionals Network for Tigray, 4 April 2022

Abstract and Figures

The Tigray War in north Ethiopia started in November 2020. A large number of war crimes has been committed (gender-based violence, massacres, deliberate starvation), and by April 2022, Tigray continued to be blockaded by Ethiopian, Eritrean and Amhara forces. The total number of civilian victims in Tigray is estimated at 250 to 500 thousand, as also mentioned in numerous media articles, such as in The Globe and Mail (https://www.theglobeandmail.com/world/article-tigray-war-has-seen-up-to-half-a-million-dead-from-violence-and/). In this presentation, we highlight details of the different categories of victims: direct killings (massacres, assassinations, air bombings), deaths by famine and starvation, and deaths by lack of healthcare. The work creating the Tigray Atlas of the Humanitarian Situation (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/349824181_Tigray_Atlas_of_the_humanitarian_situation) is also discussed, as well as the mapping work of confirmed massacres (www.ethiopiatigraywar.com).
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Documenting
the humanitarian
situation and
civilian mortality
in the Tigray
war
P R O F. D R . J A N N Y S S E N , G H E N T
U N I V E R S I T Y , D E P A R T M E N T O F
G E O G R A P H Y
O N B E H A L F O F T H E R E S E A R C H T E A M
Presentation at a hearing organized by
the Health Professionals Network for Tigray,
4 April 2022
Research experience in Tigray since 1994 Study area turns into war crime scene
Togogwa
April 2020
22 June 2021
As of start of Tigray War
Scientists’ call for ceasefire and humanitarian aid (11 November 2020)
Reporting information that we collected
Document the rapidly evolving humanitarian situation
Use the ‘power of maps’ and make the invisible visible
Collect and combine qualitative as well as quantitative evidence
Secondary sources
Primary sources : telephone interviews
General data collection (n > 1500)
Semi-structured interviews (n > 300)
In-depth interviews (n > 100)
Generalist interviews with office holders at regional, national and international
levels (n > 100)
ArcMap and ArcGIS online
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/349824181_Tigray_Atlas_of_the_humanitarian_situation
Maps of
direct killings
caught
attention
Methodology
Telephone, media, and cross-checking
All proved right, except 2 cases
Questions about “who did the incident post-mortems”, “are all
interviews recorded, transcribed and encoded?”…
Not so, we did not use such methodologies; we have even less access
than international organizations.
We essentially hint at what is there
One could wonder why states and international organizations, with
large budgets have not been doing this from the onset of the war?
Tigray conflict
makes headlines
Support ECC: spatially explicit database
“Every casualty counts”
database:
http://ethiopiatigraywar.
com/incidents.php
Support ECC: Report
http://ethiopiatigraywar.com/docs/Casualties
ArmedConflict2020-2021Tigray.pdf
Link to warfare
Locations of
conflict incidents
and massacres
Civilian direct casualties
Tallied number of civilian direct casualties is 6k-12k.
Narrative indications: widespread "killing mood" with the occupying armies; fleeing people
observed corpses along their route in many occurrences
Very few data on W Tigray where ethnic cleansing took place; nothing leaks from the
northern border strip, see VICE report on entire villages swept away
Video confirmations: "killing Tigrayans" considered act of valor for Ethiopian, Eritrean,
Amhara soldiers (Debre Abbay, Mahbere Dego); similar eyewitness report by Mehdi Labzaé
Estimation = tallied number of victims times 5 to 8
Overall death toll
There is very few information available
near-absence of communication
blackmailing of NGOs who have a partial view of the situation, but do not
speak out for fear of being banned from working in Ethiopia
Crude estimate (256k-465k)
Starvation deaths
The starvation deaths are based on the figures of the IPC Integrated Food
Security Phase Classification (400,000 people in famine, May/June 2021) and
USAID (900,000 in famine, June 2021; 700,000 as of September 2021).
Example: IPC 4 = Emergency = 1-2 famine deaths/10,000 per day! (2-4 for U5)
Deaths due to lack of healthcare
Number of deaths due to lack of healthcare based on
the excess mortality that it generates.
2019 mortality: 6/1000 per year (World Bank data)
Strong decrease since 1980s
Now back to earlier rates, due to collapse of
healthcare system
20/1000, or even 32/1000 (Dr. Tony Magaña)
Excess mortality : (20-6)/1000, etc.
Calculated on the 3.9 million people in need of
medical care (OCHA)
Seeking perfection of data?
Questions about sampling strategies… Obviously, we did not sample
villages and towns. Our calculations are extrapolations from data that are
publicly available.
There is also a possible partial overlap between the categories. Yet, in the
worst-case scenario there would be nearly half a million civilian deaths.
Seeking perfection with the data may be a way of ignoring the problem i.e.
you can’t “declare” starvation when you don’t have this and that data…
The fact that the UN was not allowed to transport documentation
material (USB drives, phones, cameras, etc.) from and to Tigray for a very
long time (and even now), has meant that the situation in Tigray is very
poorly documented. Journalists who could report about the situation on
the ground are not allowed to travel to Tigray.
Situation in Afar and Amhara regions
We do not address the numerous deaths in other conflict-ridden regions of Ethiopia,
nor the ethnic prosecution of Tigrayans throughout the country.
The larger part of famine and health care victims in Afar and Amhara regions has been
due to the Ethiopian government imposing a blockade on all parts of the country
controlled by the Tigray forces, be it for a shorter or longer term. During the duration
of control by TDF, the Tigray forces also attempted to resupply Tigray with goods found
in Afar and Amhara.
Number of civilian deaths in the Amhara and Afar regions assumed an order of
magnitude less than in Tigray, for various reasons:
Duration of warfare and blockade is in the order of a few months, vs 17 months for Tigray
There have been war crimes against civilians, but this was not stimulated by Tigrayan
policy, nor widespread like what happened in Tigray itself. There is no Tigrayan equivalent
of hate preacher Daniel Kibret. TDF soldiers have not been proudly sharing imagery of
massacres. No targeting of farming activities; warfare took place well after the planting
season.
Once Tigrayan troops moved out, food and medical aid could rapidly be brought in again; in
contrast to Tigray, the affected parts of Afar and Amhara have an important hinterland
from where humanitarian supply could be rapidly brought in, especially towards the
Amhara territories, resupplied at 80%.
Food insecurity - Famine and Farming activities & aid blockaded
20 30 % of the land fallowed, unlike previous
years (5%) (own findings)
Only 20 50 % of the land to give reasonable yield
Farmers are really nearing the margin. Individual
accounts witness that in many parts of Tigray
people have run out of food, sold their valuables,
and now abandon their homes in search of food.
The harvest would be exhausted by April and if the
humanitarian blockade remains, up to 50% of the
population could be left without access to food
(WFP).
No way out
There is no clear view of where people
go.
In normal times people would go to
urban areas, which is not possible
these days as the situation is even
worse in urban areas.
Human trafficking including to Addis
Ababa, is also emerging as a business.
People have started crossing the
borders to Amhara region in search of
food for survival, exposing themselves.
Tigrayan hunger refugees upon arrival in Kobo
(mid-March 2022). Clothing and hair dress
indicate that their origin is the wider area around
Bora or Samre
Thanks!
Thank you for listening!
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