GENEVA: The World Health Organization vowed on Sunday to continue requesting aid into Ethiopia’s war-torn Tigray region despite a complaint from Addis Ababa against its chief.
Ethiopia s government said Friday it had asked the UN health agency to investigate its leader Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus — a former Ethiopian health and foreign affairs minister — for “harmful misinformation” and “misconduct”, accusing him of backing rebels in his native Tigray.
The WHO said Sunday it was “aware that the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has dispatched a note verbale.”
But, it stressed, “WHO will continue to ask the Ethiopian government to allow access to deliver humanitarian supplies and services to the seven million people in Tigray, Ethiopia, living under de facto blockade, according to the United Nations, for more than a year.”
Adis Ababa filed its complaint after Tedros — the highest-profile Tigrayan abroad — last week described conditions in the Ethiopian region as “hell” and said the government was preventing medicines and other life-saving aid from reaching locals.
The Ethiopian government said his remarks threatened the integrity of the WHO and called for an investigation into Tedros for “misconduct and breach of his professional and legal responsibilities”.
It accused Tedros of backing the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the federal government’s opponent in a 14-month war in the north of the country.
Ethiopia’s permanent mission to the United Nations also protested the WHO chief’s remarks and called on Tedros to “avoid all matters concerning Ethiopia.”
WHO however stressed that Tigray was no different than any other humanitarian setting where it and other UN agencies “require unfettered access to be able to protect and promote the health and wellbeing of all vulnerable and displaced people.”
It pointed out that it had been prevented from delivering health supplies to Tigray since July 15, 2021, “despite multiple requests to Ethiopian authorities”, even as it was allowed to deliver aid to other northern regions of the country.
Ethiopian forces and their allies have been fighting the TPLF since November 2020, when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops into Tigray after accusing the rebels of attacking army camps.
Thousands were killed in the fighting and many more faced starvation.
The World Food Programme warned on Friday that its operations in northern Ethiopia were “stopping” as intense fighting prevented millions from needing aid.