Samantha Power says it’s ‘absolutely unacceptable’ Ethiopia is expelling seven UN officials, condemns move ‘in the strongest possible terms’

The Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Samantha Power on Friday condemned “in the strongest possible terms the Government of Ethiopia’s expulsion of UN officials from the country.”

Power described the expulsion as “absolutely unacceptable” asserting that it “undermines international efforts to deliver humanitarian assistance to millions of people whose lives depend on it.”

She wrote, “I condemn in the strongest possible terms the Government of Ethiopia’s expulsion of UN officials from the country. This action is absolutely unacceptable and undermines international efforts to deliver humanitarian assistance to millions of people whose lives depend on it. We call on the Government of Ethiopia to reverse this decision so that this vital work can continue across all the impacted regions in northern Ethiopia.

“Nearly eleven months of fighting have left an estimated six-to-seven million people in the Afar, Amhara, and Tigray regions facing severe food insecurity, with reports that some people have resorted to eating leaves or are going multiple days without food. And recently, we have started to see photos of extremely malnourished children emerge from Tigray. More than two million people have fled their homes—many leaving with just the few belongings they could carry—and up to 900,000 people are facing famine conditions in Tigray. Yet, in this time of looming famine and heartbreaking need, the Government of Ethiopia continues to take steps to prevent aid from reaching the people who need it, instead of doing everything in its power to facilitate the delivery of life-saving assistance to its citizens.  

“Humanitarian assistance is provided on the principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality, and independence—principles that the UN and the broader humanitarian community are upholding in Ethiopia in their attempts to deliver lifesaving aid to people in desperate need. We continue to call on the Ethiopian government to reestablish communications, banking, fuel, and other vital services within Tigray, and to fully restore transport corridors and air linkages to Tigray. This includes allowing desperately needed fuel, medicines, and medical supplies into the region, which the government has effectively blocked for the last two months. 

“Humanitarian assistance is critical for saving lives, but this aid will not address the root of this crisis. An immediate end to the conflict is needed to alleviate suffering. We agree with UN leaders: this conflict is a stain on our collective conscience and it must stop. All parties must end hostilities and pursue a negotiated cease-fire immediately.”

Expulsion of UN officials from Ethiopia by the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed

The Ethiopian government on Thursday announced that it was expelling seven United Nations workers, including senior humanitarian officials, for reportedly “meddling in internal affairs of the nation.”

The Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs gave UN officials 72 hours to leave the country. The decision to expel UN officials came only two days after UN aid chief warned that a blockade by the Ethiopian government of humanitarian assistance had likely forced hundreds of thousands of people in Tigray into famine.

Tigray is a region in northern Ethiopia that has been at war with the federal government since November of last year. Images of starving people, including children have recently shocked the world, triggering international criticism, including from the UN.

The seven people being expelled include Mr. Grant Leaity, Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator for Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Ethiopia, Ms. Adele Khodr, UNICEF Representative in Ethiopia, Ms. Ghada Eltahir Mudawi, Acting Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator for Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Ethiopia, Mr. Kwesi Sansculotte, Peace and Development Advisor of the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Ethiopia and Mr. Saeed Mohamoud Hersi, Deputy Head of Office, UNOCHA.

Chief White House Correspondent for

Simon Ateba is Chief White House Correspondent for Today News Africa. Simon covers President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, the U.S. government, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions in Washington D.C. and New York City.

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