Oct 7, 2021 - World

UN chief calls for Ethiopia to allow unrestricted delivery of aid

John Minchillo - Pool/Getty Images
Photo: John Minchillo - Pool/Getty Images

United Nations chief Antonio Guterres denounced Ethiopian officials Wednesday for claiming the UN had inflated the magnitude of the humanitarian crisis in the country and warned people were facing "famine-like conditions."

Why it matters: The Ethiopian foreign affairs ministry expelled seven UN officials from the country last week, accusing them of "meddling" in its affairs by warning thousands of people in war-torn Tigray were likely experiencing government-caused famine.

Driving the news: Taye Atske Selassie Amde, Ethiopia's ambassador to the UN, accused the organization at the end of its council meeting Wednesday of exaggerating the number of people in need by over 1 million and making false claims about the hunger crisis, including dozens of displaced people dying in a camp, AP notes.

  • He also accused UN officials of supporting the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front in the ongoing war with the government.

What they're saying: Guterres told reporters that he had twice asked Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to share any concerns about the UN's impartiality with him so he could investigate, per Reuters.

  • "Until now, I had no response to these requests," the UN secretary-general said, calling on the government to provide documentation of their allegations against the United Nations.
  • "The people of Ethiopia are suffering. We have no other interest but to help stop that suffering," he added.

Threat level: Guterres highlighted at the Security Council meeting the difficulty in delivering humanitarian aid to the regions most affected by the conflict, saying "movements are being severely restricted by official and unofficial checkpoints ... and other obstacles."

  • "Humanitarian aid is still not reaching the area at anywhere close to the levels needed," Guterres said.
  • "The country is facing an immense humanitarian crisis that demands immediate attention," he added. "All efforts should be squarely focused on saving lives and avoiding a massive human tragedy."

Of note: Guterres called on Ethiopian authorities to allow the UN to help with humanitarian efforts "without hindrance and to facilitate and enable our work with the urgency that this situation demands."

  • Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, said at the Security Council meeting that the Ethiopian government should let the United Nations officials back in, calling their expulsion "reckless."

The big picture: Hundreds of thousands of people are facing famine conditions in Tigray. Still, less than 10% of the needed humanitarian supplies have reached the region over the last month, Axios' Oriana Gonzalez writes.

  • The Biden administration threatened last month to impose new sanctions on Ethiopian officials "responsible for, or complicit in, prolonging the conflict" in the Tigray region.
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