Geneva – The head of the WHO on Friday condemned the Ethiopian airstrike on a market in his native Tigray, which killed at least 64 people, saying attacks on civilians were “completely unacceptable”.
World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, a former health and foreign minister in Ethiopia, said the UN health agency was providing help to survivors.
At least 180 people were wounded in Tuesday’s strike in the war-torn northern Tigray region. The army denied targeting civilians, reported AFP.
Details of the bloody attack on Togoga town, 30km northwest of the regional capital Mekele, were slow to emerge partly because soldiers initially blocked emergency workers from accessing the area.
Tedros told a WHO news conference that the strike had killed and wounded civilians.
“Ambulances were blocked for more than a day from attending the scene and evacuating the wounded for medical care,” he said.
“WHO is currently providing life-saving trauma and surgical supplies to a hospital that’s treating survivors who are able to reach care.
“Attacks on civilians anywhere are completely unacceptable – and so is denying them access to immediate care, because we lose lives.”
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, sent troops into the northern region in November last year to detain and disarm leaders of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, the region’s former ruling party.
Tedros rarely comments publically on the deadly conflict in Tigray, though he regularly retweets about the situation in the region where the UN says more than 90% of the population need emergency food aid.
On Thursday, Tedros retweeted a news report on the Togoga strike, posting it with the word “Evil”.
In April, The New York Times newspaper reported that Tedros cried when talking about the situation in Tigray.
“Hunger is weaponised, rape is weaponised, there is indiscriminate killing,” he said.
“The whole region is hungry,” said Tedros, adding: “It’s so painful … I don’t have words.”