Tigray (Ethiopia) - In absence of major international diplomacy and rescue, towards a repeat of the great famine of 1984-1985
We kindly invite you to read and sign this appeal by concerned scientists and development professionals. With this appeal, we call for a strong international involvement for immediate de-escalation and to rapidly organise efficient humanitarian aid to Tigray.
An appeal by concerned scientists and development professionals
A humanitarian crisis is unfolding in Tigray, the northernmost region of Ethiopia. As professionals with decades of involvement in research and development activities in Tigray, we are saddened to see the gains made after the devastating civil war of the 1980s being wiped away before our eyes.

On November 4th, 2020, a military conflict erupted between the forces of the federal government of Ethiopia and the regional government of Tigray. Rising tensions between the two parties in recent years have intensified in the past months to erupt into open armed conflict.

Initially, we were hoping that talks could take place and avoid the use of weapons, however, we now understand the conflict is intensifying at an alarming speed. We have not been able to communicate with our colleagues and friends, and very little information is given on the development of the conflict and its consequences on the civilian population. However, the information available makes it clear that many citizens have lost their lives, many others are wounded, and people in Tigray and other parts of Ethiopia live in fear that their lives are at great jeopardy.

Food security in Tigray was already starting to become critical even before the current armed conflict. Large areas were on a path towards hunger and crisis for a number of reasons. Desert locusts, a recurrent problem, have become a real plague in many parts of Ethiopia, including Tigray over the past months and already destroyed vast areas of cropped land. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) reports in its Desert Locust Bulletin of November 2020 numerous swarms in Northeastern Ethiopia. The battle against locust swarms was further compromised by sanitary measures against the Covid-19 pandemic.

The 2020 harvesting season should start soon, but little remains to harvest, while last year’s stores have already been consumed. These months of the year correspond to the annual hunger gap for many Tigrayan farmers. We fear that the grain baskets will remain empty. Eighty percent of the people in Tigray are subsistence farmers, and even without war the large locust damage might lead to famine if no food aid reaches Tigray. Moreover, the military conflict is making further treatment of locust-infected areas even more difficult than it already was.

The transfer of budgets from the Federal Government to Tigray was stopped after the regional elections in September 2020, impeding the proper functioning of civil society. Additionally, the multi-donor-funded Productive Safety Net Programme on which 1 million people in Tigray depend for food aid, was interrupted and the announced transfer to local institutions had not started at the outbreak of the armed conflict.

Now, because of the conflict, a state of emergency has been declared in the region. Electricity, internet and telephone networks are currently cut off. All banks have been closed in Tigray, as well as the few roads that were still connecting Tigray to the rest of the country. After Eritrea, also Djibouti and Sudan have closed their borders to Tigray. The people of Tigray, who already faced a very dire situation, now do so alone. Many have already died in this escalated conflict, but we fear that even many more will die because of hunger if no humanitarian assistance is allowed to enter Tigray.

Warfare will not bring a viable solution, for any of the involved parties. Particularly, Tigray is heading for famine, at levels that will rival the disaster of 1984-1985. We, therefore, call upon the world to demand negotiations and a ceasefire in northern Ethiopia, and to rapidly organise efficient delivery of food and other humanitarian aid to Tigray.

Initiators of this international appeal (11 November 2020)

- Prof. Dr. Jan Nyssen, Full Professor, Department of Geography, Ghent University, Belgium
- Dr. Eloi Ficquet, Assistant Professor, African Studies, Interdisciplinary Religious Studies, EHESS, Paris, France
- Dr. Wolbert Smidt, Senior Researcher, University of Jena, Germany, and Adjunct Professor, Mekelle University, Ethiopia
- Prof. Dr. ir. Jozef (Seppe) Deckers, emeritus Full Professor, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, K.U.Leuven, Belgium
- Dr. habil. István Tarrósy, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science and International Studies, Africa Research Centre, University of Pecs, Hungary
- Prof. Dr. Paolo Billi, emeritus Full Professor, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Ferrara, Italy
- Prof. Dr. Sil Lanckriet, EthioTrees Association & Guest Professor, Ghent University, Belgium
- Prof. Dr. Kjetil Tronvoll, Full Professor, Peace and Conflict Studies, Bjørknes University College, Oslo, Norway and Adjunct Professor, College of Law and Governance, Mekelle University, Ethiopia
- Prof. Dr. Pino Schirripa, Associate professor, Department of History, Anthropology, Religions, Arts and Performing Arts, Sapienza University of Rome, Italy
- Dr. Sarah Vaughan, independent researcher, U.K.
- Prof. Dr. Lindsay Whitfield, Professor in Global Studies, Department of Social Sciences and Business, Roskilde University, Denmark
- Prof. Dr. Trygve Berg, emeritus Ass. Professor, Department of International Environment and Development Studies (Noragric), Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU), Norway
- Prof. Dr. Frans Bongers, Professor Tropical Forest Ecology, Environmental Sciences Group, Wageningen University & Research, The Netherlands
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