The humanitarian situation in Ethiopia is ‘distressing’ and people are ‘starving and dying’ because of the lack of humanitarian access that would have allowed supplies to reach the people in need, the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned on Friday as the war, which started in Tigray, has now expanded to Amhara and Afar regions. The government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali has been accused of being responsible for the blockade.
Speaking at his regular press briefing from Geneva, Switzerland, Dr. Ghebreyesus known simply as Tedros, said people are dying because of lack of supplies caused by the humanitarian blockade.
He said with the conflict expanding to Amhara and Afar, at least seven million people are now in need of humanitarian assistance, five million of them in the Tigray region, the most affected region where soldiers from the Ethiopian government and fighters from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) have been at war for more than a year now.
He said the WHO has not been able to send any supply to Tigray in the past few months because “it’s under effective blockade.” He said there was “no food, no fuel, no communication.”
Dr. Tedros added that Tigrayans were also being ethnically profiled by the government and arrested “by the thousands.”
Dr. Michael Joseph Ryan, an Irish epidemiologist, and the executive director of the World Health Organization’s Health Emergencies Program, one of the key experts leading the war against COVID-19, described the crisis in Ethiopia as “a man-made disaster unfolding before our very eyes.”
Dr. Ryan described the situation as ‘grave’ and ‘deteriorating’, adding that there are ‘mass difficulties’ in accessing the people in need because of the lack of humanitarian access into Tigray, Amhara and Afar regions.
He said every day brings more challenges with the risks growing, insisting that this ‘hasn’t been a natural disaster’ but a man-made disaster driven by the blockade of humanitarian access.
He asserted that if the politicians ‘continue to push this country to the edge’, people would suffer, adding that the world often needs health for peace, but right now, ‘we need peace for health’ in Ethiopia.
Ryan also called for the release of some United Nations staff being detained by the Ethiopian government.