MSF wants ‘immediate' look into employee deaths in Tigray

Humanitarian organisation MSF calls for ‘immediate investigation’ into deaths of three of its workers in Tigray
2 min read
08 July, 2021
MSF stopped providing humanitarian and medical assistance to the people of Tigray in three regions - Abi Adi, Adigrat and Axum - following the deaths of three aid workers over concerns about staff safety.
Millions are suffering from acute famine conditions in Tigray as a result of months of fighting, say the UN [Getty]

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) have called for “an immediate investigation” into the deaths of three of its aid workers in the war-torn Tigray region in Ethiopia almost two weeks ago. 

Spaniard Maria Hernandez and Ethiopians Yohannes Halefom and Tedros Gebremariam were “brutally murdered” when providing medical and humanitarian assistance in Tigray in June. 

The circumstances of their killings remain unclear and no one has been held accountable, according to the international aid organisation. 

“This is why we are requesting an immediate investigation by relevant parties to establish the facts of the incident that resulted in their deaths and to provide us with a detailed account of what happened and who was responsible,” said operations director at MSF Teresa Sancristoval in a statement. 

Following the incident, MSF suspended their activities in three areas - Abi Adi, Adigrat, and Axum, all in central and eastern Tigray - because of concerns about the safety of their staff. 

“The decision to suspend our activities will leave a gap in lifesaving assistance,” said Sancristoval. “We know that countless patients will go unattended and some of them will die”.

MSF provided emergency medical treatment to over 9,000 people in the three areas it recently vacated, as well as supporting 335 survivors of sexual violence and helping more than 3,000 women give birth. 

MSF said that in order for aid workers to carry out their work safely, there needs to be “an environment of trust and facilitation”. 

Ethiopia’s foreign ministry sent their condolences following the incident on Twitter, adding that it had been urging aid agencies to secure military escorts in the area. 

The New Arab contacted Ethiopia’s foreign ministry to understand if new knowledge about the killings had been obtained and whether an investigation will be launched. No response was received at the time of publication. 

At least 12 aid workers have been killed since fighting broke out in November between Ethiopia’s military and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, according to reports. 

Tens of thousands of people in Tigray are suffering from acute famine conditions, according to the UN, which has urged for international action to prevent further suffering as well as calling for better access to the region “to scale up our response”.