The director-general of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said Wednesday that Ethiopia’s conflict-ridden province of Tigray is the worst humanitarian and man-made disaster on Earth.
The WHO chief said more than 6 million people in Tigray have been under siege by Ethiopia and Eritrea for nearly two years. He said they have been sealed off from the outside world with no electricity, no banking services, and only limited fuel supplies.
Tedros said a trickle of food aid and medicine has been reaching the beleaguered northern province since a truce between the Ethiopian government and Tigray rebel forces was declared in late March. The population is still facing multiple outbreaks of diseases, including malaria, anthrax and cholera, he added.
“Nowhere in the world would you see this level of cruelty, where … a government punishes 6 million of its people for more than 21 months by denying them basic services,” he said.
The 57-year-old Tedros is not a neutral observer of the Tigray conflict. He is a native of the region, served as a Tigray regional health official in the early 2000s, and later spent more than a decade in the Ethiopian government, first as minister of health, then as minister of foreign affairs.
Tedros noted that peace talks for the Tigray conflict are ongoing. However, he said, they are leading nowhere because powerful countries in the developed world are not using their influence to make it happen.
He said all eyes are focused on the tragedy unfolding in Ukraine, to the detriment of the tragedy playing out in Tigray.
“The humanitarian crisis in Tigray is more than Ukraine without any exaggeration,” Tedros said. “And, I said this many months ago, maybe the reason is the color of the skin of the people in Tigray. … This is the worst disaster on Earth as we speak. I am from Tigray. It is not because I am from Tigray I am saying this. That is the truth.”
Tedros said he is appealing to the Ethiopian government to resolve the conflict in Tigray peacefully. He said he also is appealing to the Russian government to end the war in Ukraine and choose peace.
He said both the Ethiopian and Russian governments can make peace happen if they choose to do so.