Ethiopia Calls WHO Chief's Comments on Tigray ‘Unethical’

    18 August 2022

    Ethiopia's government is criticizing a statement by the leader of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

    On Wednesday, the WHO director-general said the crisis in the Ethiopia's Tigray area is "the worst disaster on Earth." He suggested that world leaders might be ignoring the situation because of Tigrayans' "skin color."

    A spokeswoman for Ethiopia's prime minister on Thursday described Tedros's comments as unethical and "unbecoming of such a high-profile position."

    World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
    World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

    The spokeswoman said the WHO chief, himself an ethnic Tigrayan, should recuse himself from his position if he wants to talk that way.

    Tedros had given an emotional statement at a press conference. He told reporters that the 6 million people in Tigray have been "under siege" for the last 21 months after fighting began between Ethiopian and Tigray forces.

    "I haven't heard in the last few months any head of state talking about the Tigray situation anywhere in the developed world. Anywhere. Why?" Tedros asked. "Maybe the reason is the color of the skin of the people in Tigray," he said.

    Earlier this year, Tedros asked whether the world's major focus on Russia's war in Ukraine was based in racism. However, he also noted that the Ukraine situation affected much of the world.

    Very little humanitarian aid was permitted into Tigray after Tigrayan forces retook much of the area in June 2021. Humanitarian workers and local health providers described people there starving to death and a severe need of medical supplies.

    Aid started flowing more in the past few months with international efforts. However, the deliveries are widely described as inadequate to meet the needs of the millions of people trapped by the conflict. Aid groups say major shortages of fuel remain, limiting the transportation of supplies.

    Tigrayan leaders continue to demand the return of basic services and banking. On Thursday, the prime minister's spokeswoman said "an operable environment needs to happen" for the return of those services. She said safety guarantees are needed for service workers in the area.

    She noted a government proposal for "peace talks in the coming weeks," to be held without preconditions. She accused the Tigrayan leaders of "looking for excuses to avoid these peace talks."

    She also dismissed reports from Tigrayan forces of new attacks by Ethiopian forces.

    Ethiopia's government has said it is willing to hold talks "any time, any place." But, it said such discussions must be led by the special diplomat for the African Union.

    I'm Caty Weaver.

    The Associated Press reported this story. Caty Weaver adapted it for VOA Learning English.


    Words in This Story

    unethical –adj. morally bad, not ethical

    unbecomingv. (formal) not acceptable for a person in a particular job or position

    recuse –v. (legal) to disqualify (oneself or another) for a legal proceeding because of a real or apparent conflict of interest

    focus –n. a main purpose or interest

    delivery –n. the act of taking something to a person or place

    inadequate –adj. not good enough for a purpose