Omna Tigray: On the Worsening Impact of the Ethiopian Government’s Ongoing Humanitarian Aid Blockade of Tigray

Omna Tigray condemns in the strongest possible terms the Ethiopian government’s ongoing humanitarian aid blockade, which has worsened the acute food and healthcare crisis in Tigray, and calls on the international community to intervene as the unfolding disaster threatens the lives of millions of people.    

More than a year into the state-sanctioned genocidal war on Tigray, Ethiopian forces and their regional and international allies continue to exacerbate food insecurity and the healthcare emergency affecting over six million people. Over 5.2 million Tigrayans are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance, more than 900,000 face famine, and over 100,000 children are at risk of death from severe acute malnutrition. These numbers continue to rise as Tigray’s healthcare system has been deliberately decimated, and a medical supply blockade persists, leading to a critical shortage in medications, medical supplies, and medical treatments available.  

Since November 4, 2020, the Ethiopian government and its allies have heavily restricted humanitarian assistance to Tigray, transforming into an imposed siege of the region starting in July 2021. This continued blockade of humanitarian aid has been nothing short of a deliberate attempt to starve the Tigrayan people. Virtually no fuel, money, medications, or medical supplies have entered Tigray in months, and USAID reports that no convoys carrying humanitarian aid have reached Tigray since December 15, 2021. Exacerbating the already dire need for assistance, only 4% of the humanitarian supplies required to sustain relief operations have reached the region due to the lack of fuel and access. The UN has already warned that some of their agencies would be forced to stop their operations in Tigray if humanitarian supplies, fuel, and cash were not immediately delivered. According to the World Health Organization, Tigray faces more significant barriers to humanitarian access than Syria, South Sudan, and Yemen. 

New waves of internal displacement resulting from an escalation of airstrikes on civilians since October of last year have also aggravated the humanitarian crisis. Over 1.2 million people have been forcibly displaced from western Tigray, and tens of thousands have arrived at refugee camps. The UN reported that Internally Displaced People (IDPs) across several refugee camps have not received any support and live in unsanitary conditions, lacking medical and nutritional supplies. To worsen matters, the Ethiopian government’s January 8, 2022 airstrike targeted an IDP camp, killing more than 56 and injuring more than a hundred people. The strike has led aid agencies in the area to suspend their much-needed work.  

In complete violation of international humanitarian law, Ethiopian forces and allies have also destroyed or looted nearly all health facilities in Tigray. UNOCHA indicated that roughly 70% of assessed hospitals and health centers in Tigray had been either partially or fully damaged, while  80-90% of health centers visited by Doctors Without Borders were deemed non-functional. Millions are without access to essential services, including pregnant women without critical maternal health services, hundreds of thousands of children in need of immunizations, chronic illness-affected individuals without life-sustaining medication, and countless people with trauma injuries. Doctors, forced to reuse disposable gloves and stop surgeries, have stated signing death certificates has become their primary job. The collapse of Tigray’s healthcare system, in conjunction with the interruption of childhood vaccination, poor sanitation, and massive internal displacement, highly increases the risk of infectious disease outbreaks such as cholera, measles, malaria, yellow fever, and COVID-19. Furthermore, a diabetes catastrophe is unfolding as insulin runs out this week at Ayder Comprehensive Specialized Hospital in Mekelle, Tigray’s largest referral hospital.

The impact of the current war and man-made humanitarian crisis transcends the existing conflict, as the famine will have long-term ramifications on food security and societal well-being. With no end in sight, Tigrayan authorities foresee increased food insecurity in the coming year, as the complete absence of fertilizer will likely result in up to a 50 percent reduction in harvest during the next harvest season. The scale and nature of the destruction surrounding Tigray’s infrastructure, food security, and health system demonstrate the Ethiopian government’s intention to inflict a long-term crisis and impede the post-war rehabilitation process. 

To protect and save the lives of millions of Tigrayans and other civilians across Ethiopia and prevent mass deaths from man-made famine, we are calling for:

  • The international community to use all political and economic tools at their disposal to pressure the Ethiopian government to end the siege of Tigray;
  • Increased and immediate humanitarian access into all of Tigray, including humanitarian airdrops of food and medical supplies;
  • The United Nations Security Council to invoke Resolution 2417;
  • An arms embargo on Ethiopia and Eritrea, and countries supplying drones and other weapons to Ethiopia (including the UAE, Turkey, Iran, and China);
  • A no-fly zone that does not hinder humanitarian aid delivery;
  • Sanctions on Ethiopian and Eritrean government officials;
  • Pressure on the Ethiopian government to engage in negotiations;
  • Immediate, internationally monitored, and verifiable withdrawal of Eritrean, Ethiopian, and Amhara forces from all of Tigray;
  • Complete restoration of services, including internet, electricity, water, banking, transportation, and telecommunications throughout Tigray;
  • An EU, US, or UN-mediated national dialogue for Ethiopia;
  • The independent investigative mechanism to include investigations of drone supplying actors and linked atrocities, and for the commission to be operational quickly and victim-centered; and 
  • Official recognition of the Tigray Genocide committed by the Ethiopian National Defense Forces, Eritrean Defense Forces, Amhara Special Forces, and Amhara Fano Militia against the Tigrayan people.


Omna Tigray

Omna TigrayPress Release, January 17, 2021