UN Relief Chief Begins Six-Day Official visit to Ethiopia

ADDIS ABABA – The UN humanitarian chief, Martin Griffiths, started on Thursday a six-day long visit to Ethiopia weeks after the government accused his office in Addis Ababa of misinforming the international community about the situation in Tigray.

“It was important to me that I carry out my first official mission as the UN’s humanitarian chief to Ethiopia,” said Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator (OCHA).

Griffiths said humanitarian needs in Ethiopia have increased this year as a result of the armed conflicts, intercommunal violence and drought.

“These shocks came on top of existing challenges associated with floods, the desert locust infestation, chronic food insecurity and the COVID-19 pandemic. Millions of vulnerable people are now struggling and in need of help,” he added.

During the visit, Griffiths plans to meet with high-level Government officials and representatives of the humanitarian and donor communities, according to the UNOCHA.

He also plans to meet with Amhara regional authorities in Bahir Dar and travel to the Tigray region to “witness first-hand the challenges humanitarian workers face”, the agency said.

‘Accusations of misinformation’

His visit came weeks after the government accused his office in Ethiopia of engaging in misinformation regarding the situation in Tigray.

The humanitarian agency “has not been helpful and constructive since the beginning of the law enforcement operation in the Tigray Regional State,” the government said in a statement issued on July 9, 2021.

It says the Government is under the impression that OCHA’s statements and reports seem to be framed to encourage and compliment the TPLF,” a group the Ethiopian parliament designated as a terrorist group.

Ethiopia has already written a letter to the Secretary-General of the UN “protesting the unconstructive actions” of the UN agency earlier this month, according to the statement.

Discussion arranged

Griffiths expressed his agency’s willingness to work with the government of Ethiopia, saying the humanitarian “community is committed to working with the Government and the people of Ethiopia to respond to this crisis”.

“This visit is an opportunity to discuss with the Government of Ethiopia’s officials and partners how the United Nations and its humanitarian partners can best serve the people of Ethiopia,” the UN relief chief said.

“I look forward to constructive discussions on scaling up the humanitarian response across the country,” he added.


Featured Image: Griffiths,  formerly a peace envoy for Yemen, recently appointed as the UN’s Emergency Relief Coordinator – the fifth Briton in a row to hold the post. [Photo File/Reuters]