Humanitarian situation in Tigray (12 June 2021)

Dear friends,

This circular mainly addresses the famine in Tigray, as now officially confirmed by the UN humanitarian chief (section 1). Hopefully the upgraded version of our Atlas of the Humanitarian Situation will be helpful for the aid workers (section 2). Further, this circular holds a digest of articles in the media (section 3) and opinion pieces (section 4).

  1. Famine

Unfortunately, as we foresaw already back in November, there is famine now in Tigray, confirmed by IPC as well as by UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock. It is higher than any famine anywhere in the world since 2011! In different areas of Tigray, a total of 350,000 people are affected by famine. This is actively denied by the Ethiopian government.

However, in a bid to cast a sharp light on the humanitarian emergency in Tigray on the eve of the G7 Summit, a high-level EU-US roundtable was held on 10 June too, for which the IPC report was not to be doubted.  Listen to the interventions at the US-EU High-Level Roundtable on the humanitarian emergency in Tigray, by Lowcock and other major speakers who have been following the Tigray crisis from the beginning: Participants were: the US ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield, US Special envoy to the Horn Jeff Feltman, EU Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič, EU Commissioner for International Partnerships Jutta Urpilainen, USAID administrator Samantha Power, UN Humanitarian Chief Mark Lowcock, SecGen Norwegian Refugee Council Jan Egeland, and UN Special representative on Sexual Violence in conflict Pramila Patten.

During this roundtable discussion, Lowcock said that the famine in Tigray is going to get a lot worse. A major problem is that aid workers are often prevented access to the areas where the people most in need of aid are living. The UN has recorded 131 incidents of access violation in May 2021, out of which 50 by Eritrean troops, 54 by Ethiopian troops, 4 jointly by Ethiopians and Eritrean troops, 21 by Amhara Special Forces and militias and 1 by Tigray Defence Forces.

The speakers and in particular, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, USAID administrator Samantha Power and Mark Lowcock, expressed their strong frustration at the inaction of the UNSC.  Ireland has again requested that the UNSC discusses Tigray. There are indications that a discussion will take place again on 15 June, although the format of the discussion is not yet known. 

UN officially claims that aid distributions have reached 2.8 million people. Privately, according to Alex De Waal on BBC, the humanitarian workers say that is far too rosy. Independent estimates are that just 13% (670,000) of the 5.2 million people in need are getting aid.

Related opinion pieces

Related media articles

  1. New edition of the Tigray atlas

An updated version of the “Tigray: Atlas of the humanitarian situation”, was published on 4 June.

Nine maps have been updated (civilian casualties, people in need of food assistance, food aid distribution, displaced people). We published two new maps of Tigray, concerning spring rainfall in February-May 2021 (onset of the growing season!). The worsening food security situation was again updated on 11 June. Where maps have been updated, the corresponding text and references also have been updated.

Here we show the map representing current and projected food security outcomes indicating that food security in the larger part of Tigray has reached an emergency level; and locally, the “catastrophe” level, i.e. famine. Each dot represents 1000 famine-affected people!

  1. Media
  1. Opinion pieces

Follow up communication compiled by Prof. Dr. Jan Nyssen.

Jan Nyssen is full professor of geography at Ghent University (Belgium). Besides numerous scientific publications mostly related to Ethiopia, he published two books: “ካብ ሓረስቶት ደጉዓ ተምቤን እንታይ ንስምዕ”? “What do we hear from the farmers in Dogu’a Tembien”? [in Tigrinya] (2016), and “Geo Trekking in Ethiopia’s Tropical Mountains, the Dogu’a Tembien District”. Springer GeoGuide (2019).

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