December 5, 2022

USAID Administrator Samantha Power says violence-hit women and girls in Ethiopia’s Tigray region need help now

Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power
Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power

Women and girls in Ethiopia’s Tigray region have been badly affected by the violence that broke out there last November and continued for at least eight months, the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Samantha Power said on Tuesday.

Power raised the alarm during a meeting with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem. The meeting was called to discuss USAID’s revitalized partnership with UNFPA.

During that meeting on Tuesday, Power focused the attention on two countries, Ethiopia and Venezuela.

“Administrator Power stressed the importance of USAID’s renewed collaboration with UNFPA in expanding access to voluntary family planning and maternal health and addressing gender-based violence in humanitarian crises, which devastates the lives of women and girls already in dire circumstances – especially as seen in Tigray and Venezuela,” Acting USAID Spokesperson Pooja Jhunjhunwala said in a statement to Today News Africa in Washington D.C.

Jhunjhunwala added that Administrator Power and Executive Director Kanem also discussed their shared commitment to preventing sexual exploitation and abuse.

Power’s call to help women and girls in Tigray came on the same day US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken called for an “immediate, indefinite, negotiated ceasefire” in the Tigray region during a phone call with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken meets with President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., Vice President Kamala D. Harris, National Security Advisor to the President Jake Sullivan, and National Security Advisor to the Vice President Nancy McEldowney at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on February 4, 2021. [State Department Photo by Ron Przysucha

He also condemned the destruction of a major bridge into Tigray that will make it difficult to deliver humanitarian assistance to the people in the region, the U.S. government said.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali

“The Secretary stressed the need for all parties to the conflict to commit to an immediate, indefinite, negotiated ceasefire,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement.

Price added that Secretary Blinken condemned the destruction of bridges into Tigray and other impediments to access and urged Prime Minister Abiy to commit to the steps outlined in the United Nations Security Council on July 2.

According to the United States government, those steps include “the complete withdrawal of Eritrean and Amhara forces from Tigray; full, safe, and unhindered humanitarian access to populations in need; the establishment of a transparent process to hold accountable those responsible for human rights abuses and atrocities; and an affirmation that neither the internal nor external borders of Ethiopia will be changed by force or in contravention of the constitution.”

In addition, the Secretary emphasized the urgency of holding an inclusive political dialogue to begin the difficult work of forging a lasting resolution to the country’s ethnic and political divisions.

It was the first phone call between Abiy and Blinken since a ceasefire was declared in Tigray and a major bridge was destroyed threatening humanitarian efforts into the region.

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