The Ethiopian government has accused the World Health Organization (WHO) director of “misconduct” after he criticized conditions in the Tigray region.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was nominated by the Ethiopian government to be the head of the U.N. health agency four years ago but claims he has “not lived up to the integrity and professional expectations.” He has been accused of interfering in Ethiopia’s internal affairs according to a press release issued on Jan. 13 by the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“Through his acts, [Tedros] spread harmful misinformation and compromised WHO’s reputation, independence and credibility,” the statement said.
Tedros has repeatedly criticized the situation in his home country and called for humanitarian access to the conflict-ridden region of Ethiopia.
“Nowhere in the world are we witnessing hell like Tigray,” Tedros said at a media briefing on Jan. 12. He made reference to a memo WHO had recently received from a physician in the region which indicated health authorities had run out of basic medicines for diseases, including diabetes, and were now using expired stocks and intravenous fluids.
Tedros accused Ethiopia of blocking international access to Tigray, saying WHO had not been allowed to send any supplies to the region since July.
However, the Ethiopian government says Tedros has used his office “to advance his political interests at the expense of Ethiopia” and said he continues to be an active member of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). Tedros served as foreign minister and health minister when the TPLF dominated the country’s ruling coalition.
On Jan. 14, the U.N. World Food Program (WFP) warned its food assistance in northern Ethiopia was “about to grind to a halt because intense fighting has blocked the passage of fuel and food.” No WFP convoys have reached the Tigray capital since mid-December, it said in a statement, “and the last of WFP’s cereals, pulses and oil will be distributed next week.” Stocks of nutritionally fortified food to treat malnourished children and women are depleted, it said.
“We’re now having to choose who goes hungry to prevent another from starving,” said Michael Dunford, WFP’s regional director for Eastern Africa. The WFP says nearly 10 million people need food assistance.