In March this year Professor Jan Nyssen and his team at Ghent University published an estimate of the cost of the Tigray war in terms of lives. This is what the Professor said:

We often get questions on numbers of deaths due to this war. It is very difficult to know due to near-absence of communication as well as the blackmailing of NGOs who have a partial view of the situation, but do not speak out for fear of being banned from working in Ethiopia.

With the assistance of citizen scientist Tim Vanden Bempt, we made the assessment that so far there are between 150,000 and 200,000 starvation deaths, 50,000 to 100,000 victims of direct killings, and more than 100,000 additional deaths due to lack of health care.

Now Professor Nyssen has a fresh estimate, below.


Our calculations of the total number of civilian deaths in Tigray, updated up to 31 August 2022, lead to a minimum estimate of 385k and a maximum of 600k .

That is without counting the ongoing warfare and related civilian victims, which are certain to be in the thousands… All these areas are also inaccessible for food aid.

There are also two partial estimates, realised independently of ours, which show similar results. [See below]

Lower estimate

Direct killings of civilians31298
Deaths due to lack of healthcare124885
Deaths due to famine228398

Upper estimate

Direct killings of civilians89265
Deaths due to lack of healthcare154825
Deaths due to famine356102

Direct killings, massacres. This is in line with our own database. Lower value is our own ‘low’ tallying times 5; upper value is our ‘higher’ tallying times 8. These numbers have not increased much since June 2021. Except for drone strikes, little is known about civilian casualties since the war flared up at the end of August 2022

Healthcare deaths. This is because there is near absence of modern healthcare; infrastructure destroyed, no more medicine, the flagship Ayder hospital is about the only facility that still has some capacity. For example, people die by dog bite and rabies… So the annual mortality rate is back from the prewar 6/1000 to what it was in the 1980s or early 1990s, 20 or 32/1000.

Famine deaths. This is an extrapolation from IPC data. Every IPC class corresponds to a range of famine deaths (1 to 2 per 10,000 people per day, etc.). Higher rates for infants. Then we multiplied with number of inhabitants in each of the classes. This is the type of calculation that was also done to calculate famine deaths for instance in Yemen.

As independent estimates there is the following:

  • Dr Fasika Amdeslase of Ayder hospital published a graph of maternal mortality rates ( – a UNICEF and UNFPA funded study; the MMR is back to the rate that it was 30 years ago – that is in line with our estimate for healthcare deaths.