Humanitarian situation in Tigray (08 Aug 2021)

Dear friends and colleagues,

This Tigray digest holds an update on Tigray’s universities (section 1), yesterday’s briefs published by the Government of Tigray (section 2), and a link to the latest FewsNet report (section 3). There are also links to press articles (section 4), particularly related to the humanitarian situation and aid that continues only to trickle into Tigray, mass killings along Tekeze river, and the evolving military situation. Unfortunately, no ceasefire talks so far. We end with a set of links to opinion pieces on the situation in Tigray and in Ethiopia (section 5).

  1. Update on the status of the universities in Tigray

Except for its’ Western zone and pocket areas bordering Eritrea, Tigray is now fully controlled by the elected regional government. At Tigray’s four universities the immediate stress of war and human rights abuse has been relaxed, but new challenges occurred, as the universities’ budgets have been cut, as well as all external communication lines. The universities are in ‘survival mode’.

  • Due to frequent interruption of classes, students returned home without any considerable progress for the academic year 2020-2021. Most colleges didn’t even cover half a semester.
  • These universities now have their bank accounts closed and their budget was not released.
  • Staff members of these universities didn’t receive salaries since June 2021. Mekelle University alone has about 7500 employees.
  • As the Tigray region is under a complete siege all basic services have ground to a halt, and so are the universities in the region. Mekelle University, in a press release dated 20 July 2021, announced that the university has run out of stocks to feed about 10,000 students present on its campuses.
  • The Federal Government and humanitarian organisations like ICRC should collaborate in providing the universities with access to cash and food for their students.
  • The Ethiopian Ministry of Science and Higher Education, and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development need to release the universities’ budgets and unblock the bank accounts.
  • Early 2021, when controlling Mekelle, the Ethiopian government had called all students to travel back to the universities in Tigray, in order to present a face of normality. Even international PhD students (from Zambia, Nigeria, Kenya,…) were called back. Just like all inhabitants of Tigray these students now suffer from the consequences of the blockade and want to travel home.
  • Raya University students left campus when the federal forces left the area. Mekelle, Aksum, and Adigrat universities are transporting non-Tigrayan students home, with the support of UN and Tigray Government.
  • The universities and the region are however short of fuel and cash to transport these students to their place of origin. The government of Ethiopia and ICRC must facilitate the transfer of these students across regional borders .
  • The universities, the Tigray government, and the population of Tigray have to ensure the safety of these students until sufficient resources are available or their travel is arranged. They have committed themselves to this.
  • It is likely that these non-Tigrayan students will continue their studies in one of the many universities countrywide. However, in various places in Ethiopia, Tigrayan students are left without any possibility to travel to the four Tigray universities due to the ongoing complete siege.
  1. Tigray Government briefs

The Tigray government published two documents with factual information, that may not have reached the international community due to the ongoing blockade.

  1. FewsNet report: extreme food insecurity in Tigray

The latest FewsNet report particularly stresses the food insecurity. There are many detailed maps in this report, including an NDVI-based status of vegetation, which confirms poor crop stands in Western Tigray.

  1. Press articles
  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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