Shedding Light on Civilian Casualties in Ethiopia’s Tigray Conflict


The war in northern Ethiopia’s Tigray region began in November 2020 and led to a massive humanitarian crisis. Tim Vanden Bempt, an e-commerce manager from Belgium with a Tigrayan wife, collaborated with a University of Ghent research group to investigate civilian atrocities and casualties in the region. They began collecting data in January 2021 and have estimated civilian casualties as high as 813,418, with a minimum of 200,000.

The majority of these casualties resulted from starvation (between 248,753 and 555,082) and poor or nonexistent healthcare due to the conflict (between 53,695 and 205,126). Direct killings are estimated to range between 10,642 and 53,210, though unverified reports could raise the figure to 100,000. The researchers also estimate around 400,000 military casualties, though verifying these numbers is challenging due to widespread propaganda.

Data for these estimates came from various sources, including hospitals, news reports, and the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification, a global hunger crisis framework. A major challenge in collecting this data was the severed communication lines in Tigray during the war, with many areas experiencing blackouts.

Though a ceasefire was declared in November 2021, some parts of Tigray continue to experience violence. Vanden Bempt hopes for peace, justice, and accountability in the region. The conflict has been labeled as potentially the deadliest war of the 21st century, especially considering its short timeframe of two years. Despite the scale of the crisis, awareness in Europe seems limited, with sporadic coverage in small newspaper articles.

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