ETHIOPIA’S government has accused the head of the UN’s health agency of interfering in its internal affairs. Separately, another UN body warned that the Tigray region is on ‘the edge of a major humanitarian disaster.’ Ethiopia’s government has asked the World Health Organization (WHO) to investigate its own boss, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
The Ethiopian Foreign Ministry on Friday wrote to the WHO’s executive board claiming he spread harmful misinformation and ‘compromised WHO’s reputation, independence, credibility.’
The ministry’s statement called for Tedros, himself an Ethiopian, to be investigated for ‘misconduct and violation of his professional and legal responsibility.’
Ethiopia accused the WHO head of supporting the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), its adversary in a conflict in the country’s north.
The remarks that got Ethiopia’s attention
The letter from Ethiopia follows a media conference on Wednesday, during which Tedros accused the government of deliberately withholding food and medicine from millions of people in the Tigray region.
‘Nowhere in the world are we witnessing a hell as in Tigray,’ Tedros said.
He doubled down on his remark in a Tweet on Thursday: ‘People in Tigray, Ethiopia, living under de facto blockade for over a year, are dying from lack of medicine & food, & repeated drone attacks. WHO & partners call for safe, unimpeded access to deliver humanitarian aid to the millions of people in great need. We need access now!’
Addis Ababa has previously accused Tedros of supporting the Tigray force, a charge he has denied. The government now wants him to recuse himself ‘from all matters concerning Ethiopia.’
Tedros was a foreign minister and health minister when the TPLF dominated the country’s ruling coalition.
Tedros was elected the WHO’s first African director-general in May 2017 with strong Ethiopian support. He ran unopposed and was elected for a second term in October without the country’s support.
Aid not getting to those in need
Northern Ethiopia has been beset by conflict since November 2020, when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered a military offensive against regional forces in Tigray.
Fighting between government forces and the TPLF has caused thousands of deaths, displaced millions and left hundreds of thousands living in famine-like conditions with aid to the region blocked.
On Friday, the UN human rights office said at least 108 civilians have reportedly been killed in Tigray this year in airstrikes. It warned of possible war crimes.
On Thursday, the Nobel Peace Prize committee said Abiy, the 2019 winner of the prize, bore a ‘special responsibility’ to end the war and humanitarian crisis.
The government has denied accusations it blocks aid and instead pointed fingers at the TPLF for the lack of food and supplies in the region.
The UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) said Friday its distribution of necessities in Tigray was at an all-time low.
‘Life-saving food assistance operations in northern Ethiopia are about to grind to a halt because of intense fighting,’ WFP spokesman Tomson Phiri said.
‘With no food, no fuel, no access, we are on the edge of a major humanitarian disaster,’ Phiri warned.