Ethiopia expelled 7 UN relief aid officials, gave 72 hours to leave
UN Photo/Jorge Aramburu
UNITED NATIONS – UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres in a statement issued by the spokesman office said he was shocked by the information that the Government of Ethiopia has declared seven UN officials, including senior UN humanitarian officials, as persona non grata.
Guterres stated that all UN humanitarian operations are guided by the core principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality, and independence.
He stressed that “In Ethiopia, the UN is delivering lifesaving aid - including food, medicine, water, and sanitation supplies to people in desperate need. I have full confidence in the UN staff who are in Ethiopia doing this work.”He said that the “UN is committed to helping Ethiopian people who rely on humanitarian assistance. We are now engaging with the Government of Ethiopia in the expectation that the concerned UN staff will be allowed to continue their important work.”
According to the UN officials, the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a tweet that five members of the UN humanitarian affairs office, OCHA, including senior leaders, were being ordered out of the country, UNICEF Representative, and a team leader from the UN human rights office told to leave the country within 72 hours.
Guterres in a statement reacting to the expulsion order said that aAs a reminder that all UN humanitarian operations are guided by “the core principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality, and independence.”
He highlighted that in Ethiopia, “the UN is delivering lifesaving aid – including food, medicine, water, and sanitation supplies – to people in desperate need”.
UN agencies said that some 5.2 million people need help in the country’s northern regions of Tigray, Amhara and Afar, after heavy fighting erupted last November between central Government troops and those loyal to the Tigray People's Liberation Front.
The tweet from the foreign ministry, said that it was ejecting the UN officials for allegedly “meddling in the internal affairs of the country.”
According to the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, Martin Griffiths, the government’s de facto blockade of the restive Tigray region continues, he said that after 11 months of conflict and three months of de-facto blockade, the humanitarian crisis in Tigray is spiraling out of control. Commercial supplies have been prevented from entering since the end of June, causing severe shortages of essential commodities and a sharp rise in prices.
Humanitarian partners continue to respond to urgent needs in the area, stocks and resources are facing depletion. Over 400,000 people are living in famine-like conditions, he warned that it is likely to get far worse before it gets better.
UN relief chief said problems were mounting for civilians caught up in the conflict, including desert locusts, a potential poor harvest, humanitarian aid not getting through, and fighting spreading into the neighbouring regions of Amhara and Afar.
Relief officials said that child malnutrition is now at the same level as it was at the onset of the 2011 Somalia famine, with aid delivery - including fuel into Tigray, remaining a challenge.
Some 79 trucks carrying aid arrived in Tigray via the Semera-Abala-Mekelle corridor bringing the total number of humanitarian trucks that have entered Tigray since 12 July to 606, according to OCHA. UN spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric told reporters in a press briefing earlier that “As we’ve said many times, what we need is 100 trucks to enter Tigray every day. So we are way below that target” he noted that trucks carrying fuel and medical supplies cannot enter into Tigray and are waiting in Afar to travel to Mekelle.
Dujarric said that “I have full confidence in the UN staff who are in Ethiopia doing this work. “The UN is committed to helping Ethiopian people who rely on humanitarian assistance”. He added that the UN is now engaging with the Government of Ethiopia to advocate for the easing of blockade-like conditions and to allow for sustained and regular access to aid convoys. Guterres reiterated with the expectation that “the concerned UN staff will be allowed to continue their important work”.
By Anjali Sharma