Total deaths of the civilian Tigrayan population from genocide, starvation, and absence of health care could easily approach 750,000 in the next few months. Now almost 10 months since the conflict began Tigray remains blocked from trade, food aid, medical supplies, power, communication, fuel, in other words just about every thing. International aid agencies including the United Nations have done preliminary investigations with findings that at least 100 trucks of food aid is necessary everyday to avert fatal starvation. They found there is no real working medical facility or supply in Ethiopia. Ongoing killing is still present in Western Tigray by the Eritrean, Amhara militia, and Ethiopian Defense Forces.
Lack of Health Care Will Increase the Crude Death Rate in Tigray
The crude death rate for Ethiopia defined as the percentage of deaths in a population was first estimated in 1950 at about 32 deaths per 1000 population. By 1971 with the beginning of building of medical schools and development of a health system it was reduced to 21.11. Years later in 2020 with major teaching hospitals in every region, rural health care, and a stronger national health system the crude death rate had been dramatically reduced to 6.29 per 1000 population. Unfortunately it is perfectly logical to assume that if you take away all health care and medical supplies in Tigray the crude death rate just from the absence of health care will soar to 32 deaths per 1000 per year. For the 7, 070,260 population of Tigray measured in the last census that means this lack of health care will bring about 226,248.32 deaths annually in Tigray.
Ethnic genocidal killings by military and militia groups in Tigray
International human rights groups have done some preliminary investigation and estimate that so far 1,900 people have been killed. There is continuing violence in Western Tigray which remains occupied by Eritrea, Amhara militia, and Ethiopian national defense forces where floating bodies have been discovered at about a 40 in the Tekeze river flowing from the occupied city of Humera. The Ethiopian military plans to execute 17,500 Tigrayan soldiers who were detained at the onset of the conflict. From battle field reports it appears Ethiopian federal forces did not take prisoners of combatants only of civilians “collaborators” such that is possible that perhaps 10,000 Tigray Defense Forces have been killed.
Death From Starvation in Tigray
The United Nations relief agencies and other groups have determined that 100,000 children and over 250,000 adults are at critical stages of risk of death from starvation. The routes of delivering the necessary 100 trucks a day to help relief this emergency pass through active battlefield. Many in the Amhara political structure are espousing the view that no aid should be given to Tigray unless they unilaterally give up the fight now.
Recovery of Tigrayan genocide victims downriver from Humera shows how they were likely targeted by cultural markings and suffered horrible murder.
Over the past week increasing numbers of dead bodies have been found floating in the Tekeze river which borders between Western Tigray and Sudan. At least 40 bodies have been recovered in area downriver from the Tigray city of Humera which is under control of Eritrean and Amhara militia. It is the rainy season there and the current is quite swift making recovery difficult for local fisherman so only a few bodies have been able to be collected which have been buried by the local Sudanese.
According to reports by AP and others many have been found to be bound with hands behind their back and suffered burns before death. Tewodros Tefera, a Tigrayan general surgeon refugee who is helping Tigrayan refugees in Sudan and Sudan doctors examined the bodies and recognized the characteristic Tigray facial marking on some of the bodies and identified another with a tattoo in the Tigrinya language. Some of the bodies have suffered gun shot and axe wounds.
For centuries at least the Tigrayans often called the Tegaru have practiced ritual face marking. This is not unusual in Africa although the specific way the Tegaru do it is unique. In early childhood two parallel small incisions are made lateral to the eyebrow. Locally it is called the “eleven”. Sometimes this was done at the time a child showed febrile illness. There is a cultural belief that this mark protects health. Unfortunately this mark is known to those committing genocide in Tigray such that those bearing it become the targets of abuse or murder. In previous times the Derg regime and bands of Amhara militia have gone on hunting parties to kill those with these facial scars. These markings leave no doubt that it is Tigrayans who are being killed.
The Ethiopian Federal government is committing intended genocide robbing the future of the young people and the Tigray society by denying any funding for basic infrastructure, education, and health care in Ethiopia.
The National State of Tigray had 9 government owned college and universities and 11 privately owned. The number of students attending all these institutions was likely in excess of 60,000 students. The flagship university was Mekelle University, a Federal facility, that was the second largest university in Ethiopia enrolling students in undergraduate and graduate programs from not only all the regional states of Ethiopia but also Somaliland, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan and Djibouti. Within Mekelle University are the following colleges: Dryland Agriculture and Natural Resources Management, Natural and Computational Sciences, Law and Governance, Social Sciences and Languages, Business and Economics, Veterinary science, Health Sciences and Ayder Comprehensive Specialized Hospital.
For almost 7 years I have been Professor and Chief of Neurosurgery, teaching medical students, residents, and fellows as well as Faculty for what was the first Neuroscience PhD program in Ethiopia. Even before the events of November 2020 which plummeted into armed conflict between the Federal government and the National Tigray State there were problems brewing with the Ministry of Science and Higher Education which oversees universities as well as the hospitals they own. Whereas before we were welcome partners at discussions on the national level about educational development the Tigray region was shunned. Although the COVID-19 crisis had resulted in prolonged shutdown and budget cuts there were additional steps taken to restrict Tigray Universities.
After the conflict began in every woreda and kebele schools were ransacked, teachers killed or raped, and books used for toilet paper by occupying Eritrean, Amhara, and Ethiopian National Defense Force Soldiers who often took over these facilities to be used as barracks or even worse centers of abuse. Universities and hospital underwent artillery barrages and air strikes even while they were treating innocent civilians. Many faculty and staff have not been paid for many months (bank accounts are frozen) , physical plants have no ability to do even maintenance Supplies and equipment were stolen and often sent to Eritrea as war booty. The African Studies Association which is the largest African scholar group has condemned the action of the Ethiopian government. To rebuild and replace these losses will cost millions of birr.
After the occupancy of Mekelle by the Interim Administration of the Federal Government we were told that schools and universities would remain open and not to send the students home. However minimal funds and resources were sent to sustain the physical plants, the faculty, or even the students. Basically the Ministry just seemed to pretend we did not exist. Ultimately when the new budget was done for the coming year which normally starts in September to correlate with the New Year on the Ethiopian calendar we have learned that absolutely no budget at all was made for education or health care in Tigray. Even though the Federal Government says we are still a part of Ethiopia in reality we are being denied any funding of vital functions in society as if we are not a part of Ethiopia.