English translation of the article published on vrt NWS (Dutch), 06 April 2021: https://www.vrt.be/vrtnws/nl/2021/04/06/rapport-in-tigray-ethiopie-worden-de-burgers-bewust-uitgehon/
The inhabitants of Tigray, a region in northern Ethiopia, are starving and circumstantial evidence suggests that this is done consciously and on a large scale. This is stated in a report published today by the World Peace Foundation, a research group of the American Tufts University. This may cause another famine, almost 40 years after the terrible famine of 1984, it reads.
Tuesday 6 April
It is now known that there is a humanitarian crisis in Tigray. According to the United Nations, 4.5 of nearly 6 million residents need food aid. This is the result of a war that began in November last year. A war between the then political and military rulers in Tigray on the one hand and the Ethiopian government army (assisted by, among others, the army of neighboring Eritrea) on the other.
Hunger as a weapon of war
According to researchers at Tufts University, the Ethiopian and Eritrean army use “starvation” as a weapon of war, which is a war crime.
The research team is led by Alex De Waal, an international expert in the field of famines and an East African expert. “They have deliberately dismantled the existing economic and food system,” he writes in the “Starving Tigray” report.
The Ethiopian Embassy in Belgium calls the report unfounded. “The report is inconsistent with reality on the ground,” it said in a statement.
The researchers acknowledge that they have not been on the ground and rely on interviews with witnesses and specialists on the ground and on data available to everyone, such as human rights reports, government reports, satellite imagery, and even research data from Ghent University.
Destroy food supplies and set fire to fields
The researchers show in the report that Ethiopian and Eritrean troops on a large scale “take away and destroy things, and prevent activities necessary for the survival of the Tigreans.”
For example, they destroyed food supplies and set fire to fields just before harvesting was to take place. They stole or killed cattle. They destroyed their agricultural equipment.
Farmers were forced to leave their fields and flee to other areas. Seasonal workers were no longer allowed, causing harvests to be lost.
Factories and industries have been bombed and set on fire, leaving people without income to buy food. Banks were closed and looted, leaving people unable to access their savings to buy food or seeds.
According to the researchers, there are indications that the governments of Ethiopia and Eritrea are deliberately doing so to cause hunger.
According to the Ethiopian Embassy, it are Tigray’s regional militias that have destroyed all the infrastructure and public facilities in their own region “with the aim of making people suffer for a long time.” It is the Ethiopian government that is now restoring everything, the Embassy claims.
There is a large chance that the situation will evolve into a ‘famine’ in the coming months, the worst form of a food crisis. The researchers believe that 50 to 100 people already die every day from the effects of hunger and acute malnutrition.
“The picture we are getting is extremely alarming and points to a huge crisis that national and international humanitarian actors were totally unprepared for, and where the response to this day is completely inadequate,” the research team said.
The Ethiopian Embassy in London says the Ethiopian government has already provided food aid to 4.2 million Tigreans and that a large proportion of Tigray residents needed help to survive even before the war.
However, official figures show that the pre-war humanitarian situation was much better than it is now. According to the researchers and international aid agencies, most Tigreans still do not have access to food aid.
Back in time
For the older generations in Tigray, the current food insecurity brings back bad memories, because Tigray was the region of ethiopian famine from 1984-1985, when an estimated 600,000 people died of starvation.
In the early 1990s, the new Ethiopian government – with the help of international donors – reformed the economic system. In 30 years, Tigray has transformed into one of Ethiopia’s most prosperous and food-safe regions.
According to the research team, the war has disrupted that system for a long time. “Regaining some form of food security will be extremely difficult for the average Tigrayan in the coming year to one and a half years. Poverty will also increase again.”
The researchers conclude: “The governments of Ethiopia and Eritrea are starving the people of Tigray. Circumstantial evidence suggests that this is deliberate, systematic and widespread.”