World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Wednesday that the humanitarian crisis caused by the ongoing conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region is the “worst disaster on Earth” and yet global leaders have not responded with urgency — perhaps due to “the color of the skin of the people in Tigray.”
The big picture: Six million people in Tigray have been cut off from the world as the war between Tigray People’s Liberation Front and Ethiopian forces and their Eritrean allies has escalated, said Tedros, who is himself ethnically Tigrayan. Drought, displacement, dwindling food support and the resulting malnutrition crisis have threatened the lives of 20 million people, according to the UN.
- The fighting that broke out in the region in November 2020 has led to what the UN has described as a de facto aid blockade on Tigray and spilled over into neighboring regions.
- There have been credible reports of ethnic cleansing and the government using starvation as a weapon of war, Axios’ Zachary Basu writes.
What he’s saying: “I haven’t heard in the last few months any head of state talking about the Tigray situation anywhere in the developed world. Anywhere. Why?” Tedros asked Wednesday at a WHO press briefing.
- “Maybe the reason is the color of the skin of the people in Tigray,” he added.
- He acknowledged the gravity of the situation in Ukraine, including the threat of nuclear war, but noted the difference in the global community’s response to Ukraine compared to its response to Tigray, even though the humanitarian crisis in the latter is far worse.
- “There is some food sent which is not enough, but still the basic services that any human being needs” — such as telecommunications, power, banking services, vaccinations — have remained untenable for 21 months, he said.
- “How can peace talks happen when six million people are suffocated?”
Worth noting: Earlier this year, Tedros said Ethiopia faces a “catastrophic” health crisis in Tigray, saying “there is nowhere on Earth where the health of millions of people is more under threat.”
- The Ethiopian government previously fired back at Tedros over his criticism and claimed he supports rebellious forces, which he has denied, Reuters reports.