U.S. condemns “horrific killings” of three Doctors Without Borders staff members in Ethiopia’s Tigray region

The United States on Friday condemned the “horrific killings” of three Doctors Without Borders staff members in Ethiopia’s Tigray region on Thursday.

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The three MSF victims included María Hernández, an emergency coordinator, Yohannes Halefom Reda, an assistant coordinator, and Tedros Gebremariam Gebremichael, a driver.

“We are appalled and deeply saddened to learn about the horrific killings of three Doctors Without Borders staff members in Ethiopia’s Tigray region today,” the U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement. 

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The U.S. government said “attacks on humanitarian workers are indefensible and must end immediately.”

“We call for an independent investigation and for the perpetrators to be held accountable for these killings. The Government of Ethiopia ultimately bears full responsibility for ensuring the safety of humanitarian workers and free and unhindered access to humanitarian assistance,” read the statement.

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The U.S. government called for a cessation of hostilities “to ensure that humanitarian workers can safely assist citizens, prevent further suffering, and address the myriad challenges, including famine.”

Marta Cañas, MSF general director, who confirmed that three Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) staff members were killed on Thursday in the Tigray region of Ethiopia identified the victims.

“We are in mourning after receiving confirmation of the deaths of three of our colleagues who were working in Tigray. María Hernández, our emergency coordinator, Yohannes Halefom Reda, our assistant coordinator, and Tedros Gebremariam Gebremichael, our driver, were traveling yesterday afternoon when we lost contact with them. This morning the vehicle was found empty and their lifeless bodies were found a few meters away,” Cañas said.

Cañas added: “No words can truly convey all our sadness, shock, and outrage over this horrific attack, nor can they soothe the loss and suffering of their families and loved ones, to whom we relay our deepest sympathy and condolences.

“We condemn this attack on our colleagues in the strongest possible terms and will be relentless in learning what happened. Maria, Yohannes, and Tedros were in Tigray providing assistance to people, and it is unthinkable that they paid for this work with their lives. We are in close contact with their families and ask for the utmost respect and privacy for them at this incredibly difficult time.

“María Hernández, 35, from Madrid, started her MSF work in 2015 in Central African Republic and has since worked in Yemen, Mexico and Nigeria. Yohannes Halefom Reda was 31 and from Ethiopia and joined the organization in February. Tedros Gebremariam Gebremichael, 31, also from Ethiopia, had been a driver for MSF since May.

“The death of Maria, Yohannes, and Tedros is a devastating blow to all of us who are part of MSF, both in Ethiopia and in the other countries where we operate around the world. We share a deep sadness, outrage, and dismay, and are deeply sorry for their families.”

The killings of the doctors came as things continue to worsen in the region.

Earlier on Friday, the United States Agency for International development (USAID) contradicted Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali who claimed this week that “there is no hunger in Tigray.”

USAID Administrator Samantha Power in a shocking tweet blasted the embattled Ethiopian leader for spreading misinformation.

She said contrary to his claims, there are up to 900,000 people suffering from famine conditions and millions more at risk in Tigray as the crisis worsens and humanitarian aid continues to be blocked.

Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, who now leads the U.S. Agency for International Development, gives an opening statement at her U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing in Washington, DC, U.S., March 23, 2021. Greg Nash/Pool via REUTERS
Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, who now leads the U.S. Agency for International Development, gives an opening statement at her U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing in Washington, DC, U.S., March 23, 2021. Greg Nash/Pool via REUTERS

“We now believe up to 900,000 people are facing famine conditions, with millions more at risk,” said Power via Twitter. “PM Abiy said this week “there is no hunger in Tigray.” This is false: critical aid is being blocked & prevented from saving lives.”

The United States has on multiple occasions called for the immediate cessation of hostilities in Tigray and the complete withdrawal of Eritrean troops from the region- a demand that has not been met with cooperation.

As the Ethiopian and Eritrean governments continue to dismiss pleas from the international community to cease hostilities and cooperate with humanitarian efforts to the region, the crisis in Tigray grows worse and threatens long-term food security in the region.

Since the conflict first started in November, the United States has taken an increasingly firm stance of condemnation and concern for the crisis in Tigray.

Yet, many people continue to call for more action and an even bolder position as many believe that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the Ethiopian government have proven to be uncooperative with efforts to resolve issues peaceably despite the growing number of men, women, and children facing starvation.

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