Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
World Health Organisation
Avenue Appia 20
10th May 2022
Dear Director General,
We write to you on behalf of the doctors, nurses and other health professionals working on the frontlines of the war in Northern Ethiopia. As part of the global medical community, we want to address your actions during the course of the current conflict in Ethiopia and share our sincere concern that you have used your leadership role of a UN agency, mandated to protect global health, to further tensions in Ethiopia and purposefully ignore millions in need.
Many of us have worked in Afar and Amhara during the conflict. We have seen first-hand the human cost of the fighting: malnutrition, acute injuries, mutilation, rape and death. Seeing such horrors has become part of our day to day lives.
We have had to work in the most extraordinarily difficult circumstances with severely limited resources. But, throughout we upheld our duty and have done everything we can to save lives.
Here are some statistics from the latest United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs bulletin published on 7th April 2022 to articulate the desperate situation facing these regions:
- More than 10 million people in Amhara need health services and interventions.
- In Amhara, more than 500 health facilities, and 1,706 health posts have been damaged and/or looted due to the conflict and need rehabilitation and support.
- In Afar, only 94 health facilities, or 22 per cent of the 414 facilities, are functional, including two hospitals and 31 health centres.
The current situation is a direct result of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and allied forces’ attacks on the people of Afar and Amhara. During the TPLF’s invasion of Afar and Amhara in June 2021, they undertook a systematic campaign to cripple the region’s health infrastructure as well as injure, rape, and kill civilians. These crimes have been documented by international organisations such as Amnesty International and the UN. We have painfully witnessed it ourselves.
Efforts to bring aid to the regions and Tigray have been severely hindered in recent months by further TPLF attacks. The UK’s Permanent Secretary to the UN in Geneva Simon Manley confirmed this on the 8th March, stating: “TPLF attacks continue to inhibit delivery of aid across northern Ethiopia.”
During the conflict, we have looked to the World Health Organisation (WHO) for support. Sadly, we have been forgotten. Under your leadership WHO has ignored the plight of Afar and Amhara. As a Tigrayan, and as a former Health Minister in the TPLF-led Government, we understand your sympathies toward Tigray. Indeed, we too want to see more aid reach our brothers and sisters there. However, raising the alarm for Tigray should not come at the cost of shutting down the needs of Afar and Amhara.
You have taken a political and overtly biased approach to the conflict. Your actions and rhetoric have helped create a warped international view of what has occurred in Ethiopia. This has been clear throughout the past 18-months. Every press conference, every statement and every tweet has been designed to raise the alarm for Tigray, quieten the TPLF’s destruction of Afar and Amhara and heighten opposition toward the government of Ethiopia. A simple google search of your comments on the conflict highlights it for all to see.
We were concerned by your trip to Washington D.C. last month to meet with dozens of US Government officials and representatives. It is no coincidence your meetings came at the same time as two bills that seek wide-ranging sanctions against Ethiopia and its people are progressing through Congress.
Moreover, there is wide frustration among the Ethiopian medical community that you have consistently refused to engage with the country’s Health Ministry and have ignored the Ethiopian Government’s request for an investigation into your actions as the head of the WHO.
We ask you now, as an Ethiopian, to stop using your considerable influence to further the aims of the TPLF and stop silencing the urgent needs of Afar and Amhara. As the current humanitarian truce holds, instead use your position to improve the health of all Ethiopian people, rather than engage in the politics that has brought so much destruction.
We will continue working 24/7 to rebuild the health facilities in Afar and Amhara and treat the thousands that need medical attention every day. As clinicians, we look beyond the ethnic tensions that have plagued Ethiopia for three decades and treat everyone in need as equals. It is our sincere hope you take that approach going forward.
- Ethiopian Medical Association
- Ethiopian Public Health Association
- American Ethiopian Public Affairs Committee
- Ethiopian Diaspora High Level Advisory Council on COVID-19
- Ethiopian Scholars in Nordic Countries
- South African Medical Association
- Lesotho Medical Association
- People To People, Inc.
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