Written by Breanna Edwards
Edited by Annika Lilja
TRIGGER WARNING: The following article contains mentions of war, violence, genocide, and rape.
The Tigray war has been overlooked by the majority of Western media, especially since the invasion of Ukraine has taken the world stage. Despite this, the conflict has been raging for months to years, and comes with immense and rising human toll.
The war officially began in 2021 due to political instability between the Ethiopian state of Tigray and the Ethiopian government. For a long time, the nation was run by councils of ethnic groups. When Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was elected, he essentially abolished this system, and attempted to unify Ethiopia under the central state. This made the Tigray People's Liberation Front (one of said ethnic groups) feel that Ahmed was attempting to silence their voice in politics and create a central government with too much power. Tension and conflict led to the eventual boiling point and civil war, and subsequently has resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths, famine, rampant human rights abuses, and a refugee crisis. Here is that war in numbers.
(This is a short statistical article. If you want to read more about the cause and impact of the war, we recommend this article from BBC News: Ethiopia’s Tigray war: The short, medium and long story)
November 4, 2021: The day the war started.
As with any war, the Tigray Conflict has been brewing for years, but it can be said to have started on November 4th, 2020, when the Ethiopian Government attacked military groups in the Ethiopian region of Tigray over claims of theft.
The two opposing sides are the Ethiopian national government, led by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, and the Tigray People's Liberation Front, an ethnic political group. Ahmed’s forces are from the capitol and other regions across Ethiopia, and the TPLF is from the Tigray state.
2(+) countries with confirmed involvement in the war.
We know very little about international involvement with the war. Ahmed’s government claims that they do not need or want outside help, but many have speculated that multiple other nations are involved. The most notable and only confirmed is Eritrea, a small country above Ethiopia. Although Ethiopia and Eritrea have a conflicting past, Prime Minister Ahmed held successful peace negotiations and diplomacy with the nation several years ago, winning him the Nobel Peace Prize. When the Tigray war began, both Ethiopian and Eritrean governments maintained that Eritrean troops were not involved in the conflict, however two Eritrean government officials confirmed that this claim was false and that Eritrean troops have been deployed to the Tigray region, though details remain scarce. Other than that, there is no confirmed outside involvement, although Tigray officials claim that the UAE, Somalia, China, and more have been aiding the state government.
Journalists have been unable to access the Tigray region and communication has been cut, but experts estimate that at least half a million Ethiopians have been killed in the war and the subsequent famine, as well as the absence of proper healthcare in the conflict zone.
7,000,000 people in Tigray living in food insecurity due to the conflict.
The Tigray region has been cut off from aid groups for months, and in an already desert-like region coupled with a refugee crisis and a violent war, this has thrust millions of Tigrayans into a starvation situation.
2,700,000 children forced out of school due to the conflict.
Millions have been forced to leave their homes to escape the war, and many schools have been shut down because of the danger. For these reasons, an estimated 2.7 million children who were formerly receiving an education are now out of school.
It is important to keep in mind when we look at this data that this war is not a war of numbers, but of people. Each and every person affected is a human being, with family and dreams and value. These statistics should not be looked at as merely statistics, but rather interpreted as the vast human impact of this war. It is time that the Western world stop overlooking the people of Tigray and do something to put an end to the suffering and terror.
How to Get Involved
Although it is currently nearly impossible to send aid directly to people living in affected regions, donations can be sent to the following organizations that are accepting donations to help refugees of the Tigray war:
Global Giving Tigray Famine and Crisis Relief Fund (Global Giving will invest the money raised on this campaign in local organizations in affected areas. Since grassroot programs tend to be more efficient at using funds, this is what the author of this article would recommend.)
“Ethiopia's Tigray war: The short, medium and long story.” BBC, 29 June 2021, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-54964378. Accessed 10 April 2022.
“Fact check: Are other nations involved in the war in Tigray?” The Indian Express, 19 March 2021, https://indianexpress.com/article/world/fact-check-other-nations-involved-war-tigray-7236051/. Accessed 10 April 2022.
York, Geoffrey. “Tigray war has seen up to half a million dead from violence and starvation, say researchers.” The Globe and Mail, 14 March 2022, https://www.theglobeandmail.com/world/article-tigray-war-has-seen-up-to-half-a-million-dead-from-violence-and/. Accessed 10 April 2022.