World leaders 'ignoring worst disaster on Earth because of people's skin colour'

The leader of the World Health Organisation (WHO) has suggested global leaders are being racist by ignoring the crisis in Ethiopia.

In an emotional intervention, the organisation’s Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus suggested the conflict is ‘the worst disaster on Earth’ – beating even that in Ukraine.

Dr Tedros – who is an ethinic Tigrayan – asked yesterday if the reason global leaders have barely responded to the crisis is due to ‘the colour of the skin of the people in Tigray.’

He outlined how 6 million people are ‘suffocating’ in the drought and civil war-hit region, which he says has been cut off for 21 months and denied basic services.

Dr Tedros claimed people have been ‘under siege’, with no salaries, telecommunications access or the ability to travel.

He described the Ukraine conflict as a crisis that has the global community potentially ‘sleepwalking into a nuclear war’ that could be ‘the mother of all problems’ – but argued the disaster in Tigray was currently far worse.

‘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?’, he asked.

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‘Maybe the reason is the colour of the skin of the people in Tigray’.

The conflict in Ethiopia began in November 2020, and little humanitarian aid arrived after Tigray forces retook much of the region in June 2021. Aid has started flowing more substantially in the past few months but is widely described as inadequate to meet the needs of the millions of people essentially trapped there.

The resumption of basic services and banking remains a key demand of the Tigray regional leaders. Journalists have not been allowed in.

Drt Tedros said the people of Tigray had no access to medicine and telecommunications and were prevented from leaving the region. However, the International Committee of the Red Cross in recent months has reported shipments of some medications.

‘Nowhere in the world you would see this level of cruelty, where it’s a government (that) punishes 6 million of its people for more than 21 months,’ the WHO leader argued.

‘The only thing we ask is, “Can the world come back to its senses and uphold humanity?”’

Dr Tedros called on both the Ethiopian and Russian governments to end the crises in Tigray and Ukraine.

Yesterday Ethiopia’s foreign ministry said a government peace committee had adopted a peace proposal ‘that would lead to the conclusion of ceasefire’.

It claimed basic services would return following a ceasefire.

Tigray forces spokesman Getachew Reda dismissed the government statement, asserting in a tweet that ‘if anything, the Abiy Ahmed regime has made it abundantly clear that it has no appetite for peaceful negotiations except as delaying tactics.’

Tigray’s Covid-19 vaccination campaign was only launched in July.

It comes after a months-long period of deprivation in which hospital workers described running out of essential medicines and trying to treat wounds with warm salt water.

Dr Tedros, who has intervened on the topic before, was Ethiopia’s foreign and health minister when the Tigray People’s Liberation Front dominated the country’s ruling coalition.

Earlier this year, the government of Ethiopia accused him of ‘misconduct’ after his sharp criticism of the war and humanitarian crisis in the country.

It claimed he was using his office ‘to advance his political interest at the expense of Ethiopia’.

Following his latest comments, the spokeswoman for Ethiopia’s prime minister said the intervention was ‘unbecoming of such a high-profile position’.

Billene Seyoum suggested that Dr Tedros, himself an ethnic Tigrayan, should recuse himself from his post if he wanted to talk this way.

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