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World Health Organization (WHO) director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus hit the global community Wednesday for its focus on the war in Ukraine, questioning “if the world really gives equal attention to Black and White lives.”
In a press briefing, the agency chief said that ongoing emergencies in Ethiopia, Yemen, Afghanistan and Syria have garnered only a “fraction” of the global concern for Ukraine.
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In March, Tedros – who is from Ethiopia – said there is “nowhere on Earth where the health of millions of people is more under threat” than the country’s Tigray region.
Thousands have been killed since the civil war began in November 2020, and the UN Refugee Agency reports that more than 3,000 people have been fleeing from Tigray each day into eastern Sudan.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), talks to the media regarding COVID-19 and the agency’s global health priorities in 2022, during a press conference, at the World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, Monday, Dec. 20, 2021.
(Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP)
According to the WHO, more than 5.2 million people are in dire need of humanitarian support, with over 2.1 million displaced from the conflict.
Earlier this month, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said widespread abuses against civilians in the western part of Tigray amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Tedros said that since a truce was declared in the region three weeks ago, about 2,000 trucks should have been able to bring in food, medicines and other essentials. But, only around 20 trucks have arrived.
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“As we speak, people are dying of starvation,” he said. “This is one of the longest and worst sieges by both Eritrean and Ethiopian forces in modern history.”
While acknowledging that the war in Ukraine is globally significant, Tedros wondered if other crises are being given enough attention.
“I need to be blunt and honest that the world is not treating the human race the same way,” he said. “Some are more equal than others.”
Tedros, a former minister of health in Ethiopia and an ethnic Tigrayan, called the situation in Tigray “tragic” and swiped at the media for its failure to document atrocities there.
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Notably, earlier this year, the government in Ethiopia accused Tedros of “misconduct” after his criticism of the war and humanitarian crisis.
It claimed Tedros was using his office “to advance his political interest at the expense of Ethiopia” and that he continues to be an active member of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). Tedros was Ethiopia’s foreign minister and health minister when the TPLF dominated the country’s ruling coalition.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.