Last updated on August 14th, 2022 at 09:36 am
United States Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken met on Tuesday with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Filippo Grandi in Washington, D.C. and both leaders discussed a wide range of issues, including refugees in the Horn of Africa.
The devastating war in Ethiopia’s Tigray region has forcibly displaced millions of people and put hundreds of thousands more at an increased risk of famine. The United States, the United Nations, the European Unions, and other regional and international bodies, including the World Health Organization, have warned that failure to allow a full humanitarian access into Tigray will be catastrophic.
Last Thursday, the World Health Organization Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at a joint press briefing in Washington D.C. with the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra praised the United States and President Joseph R. Biden Jr. for their efforts and contributions to beat COVID-19 around the world, including in Africa, but acknowledged that several other challenges remain, including in Ukraine where Russia’s invasion has displaced millions of people, and in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, where government forces are preventing full humanitarian access.
The WHO chief described the blockade in the Tigray region, which has lasted over 500 days, as the longest and worst in modern human history, asserting that atrocities and massacres were being committed regularly, with some people being “burned alive” because of their ethnicity. The catastrophic siege, he said, was being enforced by Eritrean and Ethiopian forces.
The WHO chief, who is from Tigray, said he has not spoken to his relatives in the region for more than 500 days because telecommunication is non existent. He acknowledged that the international community was taking steps to ending the crisis but added that “it’s not enough.”
He argued that while the attention of the international community should be focused on Ukraine because of the atrocities being committed there by Russian forces against civilians, a fraction of that attention should be directed to Tigray, because “the situation is getting worse, and people are being burned alive.”
He welcomed the delivery of 20 trucks with aid into Tigray ten days ago, but argued that the recent aid does not cover one percent of Tigray’s needs.
Following the meeting between Blinken and Grandi on Tuesday, Ned Price, State Department spokesperson said both leaders “highlighted the United States’ humanitarian assistance to address the needs of refugees and displaced persons in the Horn of Africa, as well as the most vulnerable Afghans.”
“Secretary Blinken and High Commissioner Grandi reaffirmed the strong collaboration between the United States and UNHCR, recognizing UNHCR’s important role on the frontlines of humanitarian response efforts worldwide. The Secretary emphasized the United States’ continued support to address the refugee crisis resulting from Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine,” he said.
Price added, “They also discussed the imperative for unimpeded humanitarian assistance in Syria, discussed enhancing protection for LGBTQI+ and other refugees with specific needs, and reiterated our shared priority to provide protection to forcibly displaced people around the world.
“Secretary Blinken reiterated our continued focus on increasing refugee resettlement to the United States, providing life-saving assistance to the most vulnerable, and addressing humanitarian crises globally.”