UN Chief Guterres Calls on Ethiopia to Reverse Expulsion Order
(Bloomberg) -- United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on Ethiopia’s government to let UN representatives resume their work there immediately after seven senior staff members with the organization were ordered to leave for allegedly meddling in internal affairs.
Ethiopia’s government said last week that the UN officials were going beyond their duties in the country, which has been engulfed in conflict since late last year when federal troops retaliated for an attack by regional soldiers on an army base in the Tigray region. The UN responded to Ethiopia’s expulsion by saying the decision didn’t follow formal procedures.
“All efforts should be squarely focused on saving lives and avoiding a massive human tragedy,” Guterres told the UN Security Council on Wednesday. “This makes last Thursday’s announcement by the Government of Ethiopia to expel seven senior UN officials -- most of them humanitarian staff -- particularly disturbing.”
Ethiopia’s decision last week followed a similar move last month, when Medecins Sans Frontieres, one of only a handful of international charities providing front-line health care to people in conflict areas, said it was asked to cease operations by the government. The Norwegian Refugee Council, which provides assistance to almost 600,000 people in six regions across Ethiopia, was given similar orders.
Since the violence exploded last year, the conflict has spilled into the neighboring Afar and Amhara regions as Tigray forces seek to push back against their adversaries following gains in June and July.
As many as 7 million people in Tigray, Amhara and Afar are now in need of food assistance and other emergency support, according to UN figures. This includes more than 5 million people in Tigray, where an estimated 400,000 people are living in famine-like conditions, Guterres told the council.
“Humanitarian aid is still not reaching the area at anywhere close to the levels needed,” he said.
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