Omna Tigray: Omna Tigray Calls on the International Community to Take A Stand and Demand Justice for Tigrayan Women and Girls this International Women’s Day

The current genocidal war on Tigray has left a trail of devastation, resulting in tens of thousands of civilian casualties, millions displaced, and over 90% of its population in desperate need of humanitarian assistance. Moreover, the Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Amhara forces’ use of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) as a weapon of war has affected tens of thousands of women and girls in Tigray, who are in dire need of immediate support. Survivors of weaponized SGBV, who have been subjected to rape, gang rape, and sexual slavery, continue to suffer under the Ethiopian government’s inhumane siege, which has prevented the delivery of desperately needed life-saving medical supplies. On this International Women’s Day, Omna Tigray is calling on the international community to amplify the voices of Tigrayan women and girls, call for an end to the continued use of SGBV as a weapon of war, demand accountability and justice for survivors, and ensure unfettered access to Tigray to deliver much needed humanitarian aid.

In February 2022, the Tigray Health Bureau estimated there are approximately 120,000 survivors of sexual violence between the ages of 15 and 49 in liberated areas of Tigray. As invading forces occupied most of Tigray through the end of June 2021, survivors and those treating their injuries reported an impending fear of rape. Allied Ethiopian forces have targeted women in their homes, in front of their families, on their way to school, and even as they sought out food and water. With allied Ethiopian forces acting with impunity in areas that remain occupied, Western Tigray and Irob included, it is more than likely that rape, gang rape, sexual slavery, sexual mutilation, and other forms of torture continue to those areas.

In complete violation of international humanitarian law, allied Ethiopian forces have also destroyed or looted nearly all health facilities in Tigray. Between 70% to 90% of Tigray’s assessed hospitals and health centers have been damaged or deemed non-functional. Human Rights Watch has reported that Tigrayan sexual violence survivors are in desperate need of treatment for HIV and Hepatitis B, termination of pregnancy, and care for broken bones, stab wounds, and traumatic fistula. Survivors cannot access lifesaving medical assistance because of the wholesale destruction of Tigray’s health infrastructure. Moreover, extremely high rates of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress among survivors and communities have led to a spike in suicide and suicidal thoughts, emphasizing the need for psychological support services. With health facilities systematically destroyed by allied Ethiopian forces and the Ethiopian government’s continued siege, there are few places that survivors can access support.

Additionally, pregnant women and mothers in Tigray often face insurmountable challenges keeping their children alive. More than 900,000 Tigrayans live in famine, over 100,000 children are at imminent risk of starvation, and 83% of people in Tigray are food insecure. The adverse effects of famine exposure on survivors are well understood, as famine is associated with higher mortality rates. Tigrayan children exposed to famine in-utero and early childhood are likely to experience increased rates of diseases, psychological disorders, adverse effects on their educational attainment, among other detriments, if not death. Tragically, pregnant women are left to grapple with a lack of sustenance, prenatal and postnatal care, and surgical procedures for those experiencing complications, including cesarean sections, blood transfusions, and other obstetric care emergencies.

Beyond committing the most pervasive and egregious human rights violations, the Ethiopian government’s weaponization of SGBV and subsequent siege on Tigray will remain with the survivors for a lifetime. Research shows that SGBV can also impact economic and social stability. Compounded with famine and a devastated health system, generations of Tigrayans, especially women and girls, will face the consequences of the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Amhara forces.

In a culture where there is a stigma surrounding sexual matters, and their disclosure is regarded as taboo, survivors have shown extreme bravery in speaking out against their perpetrators. It is now time that the international community fulfills its obligation to protect the lives of millions of Tigrayans and other civilians across Ethiopia. Omna Tigray is calling for:

  • Increased and immediate humanitarian access into all of Tigray via the opening of humanitarian corridors and airdropping of aid;
  • Complete restoration of communications, including phone lines and the internet;
  • The International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia to be operational quickly and victim-centered, ensuring justice for all survivors and holding perpetrators accountable; and
  • Funding and support for holistic services geared towards survivors, including but not limited to medical, social, and psychological care and community education to break any stigma.


Omna Tigray

Omna TigrayPress Release, March 8, 2021