Internally displaced women shelter in the village of Erebti, Ethiopia Internally displaced women shelter in the village of Erebti, Ethiopia 

WHO Chief: Tigray worst disaster on Earth

The World Health Organization's director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, calls the situation in Tigray the 'worst humanitarian crisis in the world,' with six million unable to access basic services.

By Vatican News staff reporter

“The worst disaster on Earth:” That’s how the head of the World Health Organization on Wednesday described the ongoing crisis in Ethiopia’s Tigray region.

Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who is himself from Tigray, said the situation caused by the conflict in his home country is worse than any other humanitarian crisis in the world.

He said that the 6 million people in Tigray have been “under siege” for the last 21 months, and “Nowhere in the world would you see this level of cruelty.”

Ongoing conflict

The conflict in Ethiopia began in November 2020 when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed launched a military offensive against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.

Fighting has continued in a conflict that has killed tens of thousands of people and has forced millions to become displaced.

The ongoing fighting has also raised concerns about widespread starvation as the UN estimates that about hundreds of thousands of people in Tigray are facing famine-like conditions.

The TPLF had dominated Ethiopian politics for decades but clashed with the government of Prime Minister Ahmed after he came to power in 2018.

Appeals for peace in Tigray and Ukraine

The WHO chief pointed out that the people of Tigray had no access to medicine and telecommunications and were prevented from leaving the region.

“The only thing we ask is, Can the world come back to its senses and uphold humanity?” he said.

Tedros noted that while all the focus is being put on the conflict in Ukraine, it is to the detriment of the situation in Tigray.

"The humanitarian crisis in Tigray is more than Ukraine without any exaggeration," he said. "And, I said this many months ago, maybe the reason is the color of the skin of the people in Tigray. … This is the worst disaster on Earth as we speak. I am from Tigray. It is not because I am from Tigray I am saying this. That is the truth."

The director-general is calling on the Ethiopian government to resolve the conflict in Tigray. He also urged the Russian government to end the war in Ukraine.

WHO emergencies director Mike Ryan also criticised a lack of concern about the drought and famine unfolding in the Horn of Africa, and the ensuing health crisis.

The WHO has called for $123.7 million to tackle the health problems resulting from growing humanitarian crisis in the region, where around 200 million people live and millions are going hungry. 

Pope's appeal

During the Sunday Angelus on June 13 2021, Pope Francis expressed his closeness to the population of the Tigray region in Ethiopia, "struck by a grave humanitarian crisis that leaves the poorest people exposed to famine. Today there is famine; there is famine there. Let us pray together that the violence may cease immediately, that food and health assistance be guaranteed to everyone, and that social harmony be restored as soon as possible. In this regard, I thank all those who work to alleviate the people’s suffering."

18 August 2022, 13:16