“Tigray’s conflict worsening, my brother missing, people dying”, WHO Director General laments

The World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom on Monday lamented his home country’s deteriorating situation, Ethiopia, where a regional conflict threatens regional stability.

Speaking at his weekly press conference from Geneva, the WHO boss called for peace, disclosing that his brother was among the people who have remained incommunicado in Tigray since a conflict exploded there on November 4. 

“There was a very personal question about what I think about 2020. Twenty-twenty for all of us has been a very difficult year, a very tragic one. And for me, personally, it’s not just COVID alone, but personally in addition to COVID 2020 has been very difficult for me because my country is in trouble,” Dr. Tedros said at a live press conference monitored by thousands of journalists.

“My country, Ethiopia, is in trouble. And the devastating war that is happening is actually in my home region, Tigray, the northern part of Ethiopia.

“And I have many relatives there, including my younger brother, and I do not know where they are. I have not communicated with them because communication is not there. I have not heard about my younger brother. Northern Tigray is in trouble. I have that personal pain. The situation is worsening.”

This month, the United Nations Refugee Agency described the growing emergency situation in Ethiopia’s north, which is spilling over into Sudan, as a “full-scale humanitarian crisis.” People are being “slaughtered like chicken and corpses abandoned to be eaten by hyenas,” The Guardian quoted residents as saying.

Refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) escaping targeted attacks create displacement from multiple fronts, including in Tigray and Eritrea, which threaten regional stability.

The displacement began on November 4, 2020, when the Ethiopian government began military operations in Tigray, one of the country’s semi-autonomous regions located on the northern border between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Despite reports from the current Ethiopian government that an interim government is in place and banks have reopened in the region, reports from international development agencies and family members, like Dr. Tedros, are not seeing stability or calm in the region.

Kristi Pelzel is a Senior White House correspondent for Today News Africa in Washington D.C. Kristi also covers the US Department of State and the United Nations. She holds a master's degree from Georgetown University.

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