World Health Organization (W.H.O.) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters on Thursday that the government of his native Ethiopia is blocking him from sending money to or even communicating with family in the blockaded Tigray region, lamenting, “I don’t even know who is dead or who is alive.”
Ethiopia has been in the throes of a civil war between the federal government and Tedros’s Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) since November 2020. The TPLF, a Marxist organization, was once the nation’s ruling political party, under which Tedros served as foreign minister and health minister, but the current regime outlawed the party and designated it a terrorist organization last year.
The civil war has caused a massive humanitarian crisis in Tigray, where the ethnic Tigrayan people and the TPLF are headquartered. The government, led by ethnic Oromo Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, has entirely blockaded Tigray with the help of the government of Eritrea, preventing food, medicine, and other basic aid from entering. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has referred to the Tigray blockade as “ethnic cleansing.”
“I have many relatives there,” Tedros said. “I want to send them money. I cannot send them money. They’re starving, I know. I cannot help them. I cannot do that because they are completely sealed off. I want to speak to them. It’s a long time since I have spoken to them. I can’t speak to them. I don’t know even who is dead or who is alive.”
“For more than 21 months the six million people of Tigray have been under a suffocating siege that has killed people, not only with bullets or bombs but by weaponising banking, fuel, food, electricity and healthcare,” he added.