The director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, returned to the theme of the humanitarian crisis in Tigre, suggesting that racism would explain the international community’s lack of interest in the region in northern Ethiopia, the scene of violent conflicts for almost two years. years old.
Tedros, who is a native of Tigré, said last Wednesday (17/08), in a speech to journalists, that the siege of 6 million people in the region has lasted 21 months and is “the worst disaster on the planet”.
“The humanitarian crisis in Tigre is bigger than in Ukraine. Without any exaggeration. And I said this many months ago: maybe the reason is the skin color of the people in Tigre,” he said.
“I haven’t heard in the last few months, or many months, even a head of state talking about the situation in Tigre, anywhere. Especially in the developed world. Why? I think we know.”
According to the head of the WHO, the population in the region does not have access to basic services, food, medicines and means of communication, in addition to being prevented from leaving the territory.
“It’s the worst humanitarian crisis. I’m saying: nowhere in the world are there 6 million people under siege. Nowhere,” Tedros said. “The only thing we ask is: can the world come to its senses and defend humanity?”
The line came when he was commenting on the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Tedros said that the world could be on the way to a nuclear war that threatens to be “the mother of all problems”, but added that, in terms of the humanitarian crisis, the situation in Tigre is currently worse.
In this regard, he called on the Ethiopian and Russian governments to put an end to the two crises. “If you want peace, you can make it happen, and I appeal to both of you to resolve these issues.”
In April of this year, the WHO chief had already questioned whether the world’s excessive focus on the war waged by Russia was racially motivated, but acknowledged that the conflict in Ukraine has global consequences.
Regarding his country, Tedros criticized the war and the humanitarian crisis in Tigre several times. Earlier this year, the Ethiopian government even sent a letter to the WHO accusing its chief of misconduct due to the criticism.
According to the authorities of the African nation, Tedros would use the position to project himself politically at the expense of Ethiopia and would be a member of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). Tedros, who was foreign and health minister when the TPLF led the Ethiopian governing coalition, denies the charge.
In November 2020, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent army troops to, with the help of Eritrean forces, dislodge the rebel authorities from Tigray. Initially defeated, the rebels regained control of the region in June 2021.
Since then, the conflict has seen little international humanitarian assistance. Aid providers, doctors and nurses report that people are dying of hunger and that there is a lack of basic supplies to treat the sick.
Aid has intensified in recent months, but has been classified as inadequate to meet the needs of the beleaguered population. According to information from humanitarian groups, the region continues to suffer from a lack of fuel, which prevents the transport of goods.
A symbol of the region’s isolation, the vaccination campaign against covid-19 was only launched in July of this year – still an advance compared to the difficult months when the wounded were treated with warm water and salt.
The return of basic services and banking activity continues to be one of the main demands of Tigré’s leaders. Journalists are barred from entering the region.
The conflict in Ethiopia has serious implications beyond its national borders and could contribute to destabilizing the region – the country borders Sudan, South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Somalia, Djibouti and Eritrea.
Both sides of the conflict have been accused of abuses by the United Nations (UN).
The Ethiopian government spokeswoman reacted to Tedros’ remarks, calling them unethical. She also accused leaders in Tigré of looking for pretexts to avoid a peace agreement.
On Wednesday, Ethiopia’s foreign minister announced that there was a proposal that would lead to a ceasefire and the resumption of essential services.
In response, the spokesman for the rebel forces in Tigray, Getachew Reda, wrote on Twitter that “the Abiy Ahmed regime has made it very clear that it is not willing to enter into peace talks”.
The Ethiopian government has insisted that the peace talks be led by the African Union envoy. The gesture is seen as a sign of rejection of other peace efforts spearheaded by Kenya with US support.