World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday that there is “very narrow margin to avoid genocide” in his home region of Tigray in northern Ethiopia. .
Tedros, who was previously Ethiopia’s Minister of Health and Foreign Affairs, has been a harsh critic of the Ethiopian authorities during the two years of the war. The government, for his part, has accused him of trying to get arms and diplomatic support for rebel forces, charges he has denied.
In his most pointed comments on the war, Tedros told reporters in Geneva that food and health care are being used as weapons of war in Tigray, which is largely cut off from the outside world.
“There is no other situation in the world where 6 million people have been kept under siege for almost two years,” Tedros said. “Now there is a very narrow margin to avoid genocide.”
The Ethiopian government spokesman, Legesse Tulu; Redwan Hussein, the prime minister’s national security adviser, and the prime minister’s spokeswoman, Billene Seyoum, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The Ethiopian government has repeatedly denied blocking humanitarian supplies to Tigray or attacking civilians. The conflict has killed thousands of people, displaced millions and left hundreds of thousands on the brink of famine.
Ethiopian forces and their allies captured several towns in Tigray this week, raising fears that advancing soldiers will commit abuses against civilians. Ethiopian authorities have previously accused Tedros of supporting Tigray forces, without providing any evidence.
“Yes, I am from Tigray, and yes, this affects me personally. I don’t pretend that it doesn’t,” Tedros said Wednesday. “I have many family members in some of the hardest-hit areas. But my job is to draw the world’s attention to the crises that threaten people’s health, wherever they are.”