Humanitarian situation in Tigray (21 June 2022)

Dear reader,

Despite showcasing of aid convoys, most of Tigray is still in famine-like conditions. On 16 June, OCHA’s situation report noted that due to a lack of essential services and functioning markets, as well as an inability to bring in sufficient supplies, fuel, and cash to Tigray, limited access to people in hard-to-reach areas, and a lack of partner presence on the ground in some areas, the overall operating environment remains constrained. The Ethiopian government even prohibits the shipment of chlorine tablets to Tigray for the much-needed disinfection of drinking water.

The present response does not yet meet the rising demands of the most vulnerable persons since the resources available do not match the requirements. Despite the challenges, humanitarian partners continue to give assistance and gather additional funds. During the week before 16 June, food partners in Tigray helped almost 340,000 individuals with 5,303 MT of food.

In total, more than 20,000 MT of food was delivered to more than 1.2 million individuals in the region between early April and the 8th of June. It’s worth noting that most of Tigray’s 6 million inhabitants are estimated to be people in need!

The situation is relatively better in those parts of Amhara and Afar regions, that have also been affected by several months of warfare. As of the 13th of June, more than 10 million individuals in the Amhara region have received food aid. Similarly, as of June 13, approximately 1 million individuals in Afar have received more than 15,500 MT of food at full ration as part of the ongoing food distribution.

In this circular we will focus on the town of Wukro, thanks to the diary kept there by Abba Melaku (section 1). Next, there is the World Agriculture Prize 2021 that was awarded to Professor Mitiku, which we consider also as a token for Tigray’s resilience (section 2). There is also news about peace talks between the Tigrayan and central Ethiopian governments (section 3). However, accountability remains important; Artificial Intelligence figurehead Dr. Timnit Gebru has slammed the ‘both sides’ discourse when it comes to war crimes in and around Tigray (section 4). We conclude with four newly published scientific papers about the Tigray war (section 5), “in the media” (section 6) and opinion pieces (section 7).

  1. News from Wukro

Father Angel (in Tigrinya: Abba Melaku) is an 84-years old Spanish priest who has lived in Wukro (Tigray) for some 30 years. Angel happened to be in Spain for medical care when the war erupted, and then did every effort to return to Wukro, in which he succeeded in January 2022. His blog is posted in Spanish and it reads like a diary. Even when titles of some pages sound generic (e.g. “Noticias internacionales”), the red thread are the destructions, the blockade and the daily life in Wukro.

The blog is summarised in this article: Trouw, 9 Juni 2022. Missionaris Ángel Olaran is boos dat de wereld niets doet aan de honger in Tigray. ‘Mensenrechten tellen niet meer’  [in Dutch; but Google Translate is quite accurate]

The diary itself is in Spanish, you may again use Google Translate:

DateSpanish (with weblinks)English
11/1/2022Ángel Olaran se siente apoyado con su llegada a WukroAngel Olaran feels supported with his arrival in Wukro
20/1/2022Compartimos las primeras imágenes del misionero Ángel Olaran en WukroThe first images of missionary Angel Olaran in Wukro
17/2/2022Ángel Olaran comparte sus tres primeras semanas en Wukro – La necesidad de alimentos es de prioridad absoluta – Nuestra novia de la muerteAngel Olaran shares news of his first three weeks in Wukro – The need for food is an absolute priority – Death is our bride
24/3/2022Ecos de la sociedad de WukroEchos of the Wukro society
24/3/2021El sentimiento tigriño aflora con el conflicto bélico etíopeThe Tigrayan feeling emerges with the Ethiopian war conflict
24/3/2022Negar el Derecho a la Soberanía Alimentaria es un crimen contra la Humanidad – Mantenimiento del comedor de ancianosDenying the Right to Food Sovereignty is a Crime Against Humanity – Maintenance of the Soup Kitchen for the Elderly
24/3/2022Abuso de la Soberanía NacionalAbuse of National Sovereignty
18/4/2022Sin camiones humanitarios entraremos en la sobrevivencia de los más fuertesWithout humanitarian trucks we go for the survival of the fittest
20/4/2022Cada día sin llegar la ayuda aumenta este crimen humano en TigrayEvery day without help increases this human crime in Tigray
22/4/2022La Operación «Ley y Orden» contra Tigray Operation Law and Order against Tigray
4/5/2022Mapa de solicitudes de ayuda – Ayuda que sí nos ha llegado – Comida de PascuaMap of help requests – Help that has come to us – Easter Meal
4/5/2022¿A quién preocupa los niños que están muriendo en Tigray?Who cares about the children who are dying in Tigray?
25/5/2022Planes para la reconstrucción de WukroPlans for the reconstruction of Wukro
25/5/2022Noticias internacionales y de WukroInternational and Wukro News
14/6/2022Podríamos decir que han echado a Tigray de EtiopíaOne could say that they have kicked Tigray out of Ethiopia
14/6/2022Diferencias de trato de la ONU y desajustes mundialesUN differences in treatment and global mismatches

Further news about the humanitarian situation in Tigray:

Prof. Mitiku Haile and Ángel Olaran, both from Tigray, telling their stories and peoples suffering
  1. World Agriculture Prize 2021 for Professor Mitiku Haile (Mekelle University)

The Global Confederation of Higher Education Associations for Agricultural and Life Sciences (GCHERA) has awarded Prof. Mitiku Haile of Mekelle University the 2021 World Agriculture Prize, in recognition of his outstanding achievements in agriculture and life science education and scientific research. The nomination was prepared by a whole group (mostly members of this mailing list).

See the official announcement of the award and Prof. Mitiku’s profile, established by GCHERA

Excerpts from the recommendation letters:

Prof. Zeray Alemseged, Donald N. Pritzker Professor of Organismal Biology & Anatomy, University of Chicago: “Professor Mitiku pioneered the birth and expansion of Mekelle University shepherding the institution from its modest beginnings as college of Dryland Agriculture and Natural Resources to what is today a prominent Ethiopian university enrolling over 30,000 students. In addition to his leadership activities, he has also been heavily involved in teaching and mentoring students including PhD and postdoctoral research fellows.”

Em. Prof. Seppe Deckers, K.U.Leuven: “The impact of this long-standing collaboration in terms of farmers’ livelihoods but also in terms of academic output was enormous, not only in Tigray Region but all over Ethiopia, where this model of agricultural research for development successfully inspired Jimma University, Bahir Dar University and Arba Minch University”; and “Although Prof. Mitiku has already reached retirement age, he is continuing his teaching and research under the horrendous situation of the on-going war in Tigray. This is the third war he and his family are going through, but he is persevering in his mission, convinced that also this war will come to an end and science-based wisdom will be more needed than ever to rebuild Tigray from its ashes.”

From the archive: websites of some international conferences organised at Mekelle University

See Prof. Mitiku’s acceptance speech as well as his online lecture presented at the award ceremony.

Mekelle University also organised a celebration, and Prof. Mitiku has been interviewed by VoA, TMH, BBC Tigrigna, Dimtsi Woyane, and FM Mekelle.  

  1. News about diplomacy and peace talks
  1. Timnit Gebru slams the ‘both sides’ discourse related to Tigray

Timnit Gebru, figurehead of Artificial Intelligence ethics, has also been very outspoken on the Tigray Genocide. When challenged with the “all sides” argumentation, she replied: “[Other war crimes in Ethiopia] are not nearly at a scale as the Tigray Genocide, with the state apparatus and its elites’ blessing, spread with impunity and denial. I have zero tolerance for genocide denial. Maybe at the beginning of the war, when people may not have had enough info. Not now. Period.”

“Well educated PhD holders, in numbers, have been talking about Tigrayans as a “cancer” and “weeds” to eradicate and numbers of “decolonization” scholars cheering on this genocide. Nothing less than repulsive.”

Other news items about war crimes and human rights

  1. Scientific articles
  1. Journalism

Investigative journalist Lucy Kassa was awarded at the Oslo Freedom Forum for her reporting on crimes in the Tigray war.

Presentation by Lucy Kassa:  

Sally Keeble: Lucy Kassa silences human rights forum with details of Tigray atrocities

Other media 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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