Since the start of the genocidal war on Tigray in November 2020, the Ethiopian federal government, along with its allies from the Amhara region of Ethiopia and neighboring Eritrea, have obstructed the regular and consistent flow of humanitarian aid and imposed a telecommunications and transportation blockade, while brutally occupying Tigrayan territories.
At the end of June 2021, when Tigray Defense Forces (TDF) pushed invading forces out of most of Tigray, the Ethiopian government, in collaboration with the Eritrean government, enforced a brutal siege on Tigray that worsened an already grave humanitarian crisis, threatening the survival of the 7 million people of Tigray.
The Different Aspects of the Siege on Tigray
The Ethiopian regime’s siege on Tigray includes:
- A complete blockade of humanitarian aid between July 2021 and April 2022 with obstruction of regular and consistent flow since;
- Disruption and disconnection of all essential services, including telecommunications, internet, and banking;
- Bombing power stations, such as the Tekeze Hydroelectric Dam;
- Restricting fuel from entering Tigray;
- Collapsing Tigray’s already debilitated health system by preventing medicine, medical supplies, and equipment from entering Tigray; and
- Maintaining a transportation blockade.
Man-Made Famine and Human Displacement
Due to the war and subsequent siege enacted by the Ethiopian government, food insecurity has only worsened, leading to a man-made famine in Tigray.
The atrocities that have characterized the genocide in Tigray, among them large-scale forced displacement and restriction on the movement of products and people, have disrupted traditional livelihood systems and thrown millions into despair.
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)
Tigrayans displaced from their homes in Western Tigray, Irob, and other parts of the region besieged by Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Amhara forces are in an especially precarious state amid the ongoing siege.
The IDP camps in the region are not equipped to provide for over 2.2 million displaced people, resulting in IDPs seeking shelter in schools, abandoned factories, and half-finished buildings. Because of the blockade on humanitarian supplies and personnel, displaced Tigrayans cannot access food and medical supplies and have to rely on the support of host communities. As the famine deepens in the face of the ongoing blockade, host communities are unable to assist IDPs, leading to starvation-related deaths among IDPs. Displaced children also cannot access childhood vaccines and medical care, and have not attended school for over two years.
The scale of the need among displaced populations is astronomical and will only increase unless the Ethiopian government completely lifts its inhumane siege.
Obstruction of Humanitarian Aid
While the federal government and regional authorities continue to obstruct aid delivery, the man-made famine in Tigray grows more severe. Previously, the number of trucks of food that needed to enter Tigray was around 600 a week. In April 2022, a United Nations (UN) official reported that about 2,000 trucks of food are required every week to meet the region’s needs. Without consistent and unhindered humanitarian deliveries accompanied by the necessary fuel supplies for distribution, the scale of the need will continue to increase.
Additionally, farmers’ lack of access to essential agricultural supplies like seeds and fertilizers means that many will miss the upcoming planting season, leading to poor harvest and a food crisis that will affect the region for years to come.
Lack of Energy Sources
Due to the lack of energy sources, as Tigray remains cut off from the national electric grid, millions of people have been forced to chop down trees for cooking, shelter, and warmth. This has driven rapid deforestation, undoing decades of environmental protection and rehabilitation work.
This man-made energy crisis has led to a visible decline in forest and vegetation cover. Deforestation has severe long-term ramifications, including soil erosion, water run-off, and a higher probability of droughts in years to come.
The severe food shortage exacerbated by the siege also affects the ability of healthcare professionals to assist patients in the region. Healthcare professionals at Ayder Referral Hospital in Tigray’s capital city of Mekelle reported in April 2022 that Ayder Hospital, one of the last functioning hospitals in Tigray, began discharging patients after its food supplies ran out. After completely depleting their food supplies, doctors revealed that they had to send hundreds of patients home, including infants, children, and people waiting for cancer treatment.
In addition to the severe food shortage, the Ethiopian government’s siege has also prevented medicine and medical supplies from reaching the region. This scarcity of supplies and the lack of electricity and fuel have left doctors at hospitals across Tigray unable to provide medical care, resulting in the forced closure of hospitals.
In June 2022, the siege on Tigray forced Ayder Hospital to suspend all medical services due to the shortage of medical supplies and equipment, fuel, and no electricity.
The Need to Act
Despite declaring a supposed humanitarian truce in June 2021 and March 2022, the Ethiopian regime is still enacting an inhumane siege that allows a trickle of humanitarian aid into Tigray without the resources to distribute it.
Though the amount of aid entering Tigray has increased since April 1, 2022, it is nowhere near enough to meet the needs of 7 million Tigrayans, and fuel to distribute aid continues to be restricted.
Therefore, the siege on Tigray persists, and in order to bring stability to the Horn of Africa, the international community must immediately work together to exert pressure on the Ethiopian government to completely lift its inhumane siege. It must restore all essential services, end its blockade, and allow unrestricted access.