WHO vows to keep demanding aid access to Tigray

WHO vows to keep demanding aid access to Tigray
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The World Health Organisation has said that it will continue to request access to the Tigray region, and complete its mission of delivering aid.
The Tigray region has been ravaged by war as the government seeks to retake lost territory [Getty]

The World Health Organisation vowed Sunday to continue demanding aid access to Ethiopia's war-ravaged Tigray region despite a complaint from Addis Ababa against the WHO 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 comments threatened the WHO's integrity, and demanded Tedros be investigated for "misconduct and violation of his professional and legal responsibility".

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It accused Tedros of supporting the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), the federal government's adversary in the 14-month war in the country's north.

Ethiopia's mission to the United Nations also protested against the WHO head's remarks and called for Tedros to recuse himself "from 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 15 July, 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 have died in the fighting, while many more are facing starvation.

The World Food Programme warned Friday its operations were "grinding to a halt" in northern Ethiopia because fierce fighting was preventing aid from reaching millions in need.