The Tigray Conflict in Ethiopia has resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands of civilians. Estimates by European institutions and experts suggest that over half a million non-combatants have perished as a result of a government blockade that prevented access to humanitarian aid.
The conflict began in 2020 when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali declared war on the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. The violence rapidly spread as Amhara militias and Eritrean troops joined the side of the Ethiopian government, resulting in bloody battles, bombardments, and massacres, as documented by the United Nations.
A devastating mortality rate resulted from the conflict, as hunger was used as a weapon of war. A professor emeritus of geography at the University of Ghent in Belgium, Jan Nyssen, was among the first to estimate the number of fatalities, placing it between 300,000 and 600,000 civilians, excluding combatants on both sides. According to Nyssen, the three categories included in his study are: victims of bombings and massacres, those who died due to the lack of medical assistance due to the closure or shortage of hospitals and health centers, and those who starved to death.
The blockade of Tigray during the conflict was the key factor in the high death rates. Agriculture in the region, which is normally on the verge of self-sufficiency, was severely affected, and there was virtually no electricity or internet connection. Trucks carrying humanitarian aid were stopped at the border, and food and fertilizer were in short supply. As a result, between 437 and 914 people died every day from starvation in Tigray, according to Nyssen’s calculations.
Lack of medicine due to the blockade was another factor that led to high death rates. Essential medicines, such as insulin for diabetics, antibiotics, vaccines, and even gauze and antiseptics, ran out. The maternal mortality rate increased five-fold in the only hospital in Mekele that continued to function during the conflict. In two years, the mortality rate in Ethiopia increased from 6/1,000 to 18/1,000, similar to the situation 30 years ago, or even worse.
Although placing a precise figure on the number of deaths caused by the war is difficult, taking into account the estimated numbers, the war in Ethiopia is one of the deadliest of the 21st century. In comparison, the UN Office for Human Rights claims that the decade-long war in Syria resulted in 307,000 direct casualties, and the death toll in Yemen at the end of 2021 was 377,000 after six years of fighting. The Ukrainian war caused around 7,000 civilian deaths, according to the UN, while US military sources estimate that 200,000 Ukrainian and Russian soldiers died on the battlefield.
In conclusion, the Tigray Conflict in Ethiopia resulted in a staggering number of deaths due to the government’s blockade, which prevented access to humanitarian aid and essential medicines. The conflict is one of the deadliest of the 21st century, with the number of civilian fatalities estimated to be between 300,000 and 600,000, excluding combatants on both sides.