W.H.O.’s Tedros Says Ethiopia Still Starving Tigray Minority After ‘Truce’ Declared

Displaced Tigrayans queue to receive food donated by local residents at a reception center
AP Photo/Ben Curtis, File

No food from international aid groups has entered northern Ethiopia’s Tigray region since Addis Ababa and Tigrayan separatists announced a truce — specifically to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid to Tigray — in their civil war on March 25, World Health Organization (W.H.O.) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday.

“[A] week has passed since the truce was announced, but no food has been allowed into Tigray yet,” Tedros said at a regular press conference on March 30.

Tedros heads the W.H.O., which is the international public health arm of the United Nations (U.N.). The U.N.’s food assistance branch, known as the World Food Program (WFP), has for months spearheaded a campaign calling for Ethiopia’s government to allow humanitarian aid shipments into Tigray. Prior to leading the W.H.O., Tedros – an ethnic Tigray – served in various top positions in the Ethiopian government during the rule of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (T.P.L.F.), the Marxist organization that caused the current war. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is a member of an Ethiopian ethnic majority group called the Oromo. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 for helping to end a war between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

EDITORS NOTE: Graphic content / World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus talks during a daily press briefing on COVID-19 virus at the WHO headquaters in Geneva on March 11, 2020. - WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced on March 11, 2020 that the new coronavirus outbreak can now be characterised as a pandemic. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP) (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)

World Health Organization (W.H.O.) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus talks during a daily press briefing on the COVID-19 virus at the W.H.O. headquarters in Geneva on March 11, 2020. (FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)

An anonymous Ethiopian government official allegedly told Anadolu Agency in November 2020 that Tedros was “fully engaged in soliciting diplomatic and military support” for the TPLF and had worked as a de facto “diplomat” for the group. Anadolu Agency, which is a Turkish state-run news outlet, reported the allegation on November 17, 2020, just days after Ethiopia’s civil war began. Tedros has repeatedly denied any involvement in Ethiopia’s internal conflict.

Addis Ababa conceded to the U.N.’s demands on March 24 when it proposed a ceasefire between federal Ethiopian troops and the TPLF. The two entities have been engaged in a nearly 17-month-long civil war since November 2020, but the TPLF agreed on March 25 to honor an indefinite “cessation in hostilities” to allow shipments of much-needed humanitarian aid passage into Tigray.

“To optimize the success of the humanitarian truce, the government calls upon the insurgents in Tigray to desist from all acts of further aggression and withdraw from areas they have occupied in neighboring regions,” Ethiopia’s Government Communication Service said in a press release on March 24.

The WFP estimated in January that 40 percent of Tigray’s population of 5.5 million was “suffering an extreme lack of food” due to instability caused by Ethiopia’s civil war. The U.N. food assistance group noted at the time that it believed Addis Ababa’s failure to distribute aid shipments already delivered to Ethiopia by the WFP was, in part, to blame for Tigray’s famine.

The Ethiopian federal government attempted to divert blame for the lack of aid distribution in January by claiming the action was prevented by incessant attacks against its forces by the T.P.L.F.

“The Ethiopian government said last week that 43 trucks would deliver food and other aid to Tigray, but no trucks have arrived as fighting rages along the border between the Afar and Tigray regions,” Reuters reported on January 28.

“On Friday [January 28], the government said a convoy carrying food and medicine was forced to turn back due to fighting it blamed on the TPLF,” the news agency relayed at the time.


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