WHO chief suggests Tigray crisis ignored due to racism

The head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks during a media conference at an EU Africa summit in Brussels on Feb 18, 2022. (JOHANNA GERON/POOL PHOTO VIA AP, FILE)

LONDON – The World Health Organization's director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has suggested that racism is behind a lack of international attention being paid to the plight of civilians in Ethiopia's war-shattered Tigray region.

Calling it the "worst humanitarian crisis in the world", with 6 million people unable to access basic services, Tedros questioned in an emotional appeal why the situation is not getting the same attention as the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

READ MORE: UN-Ethiopia rights team: All sides committed abuses in Tigray

No-one seems to give a damn about what's happening in the Horn of Africa.

Mike Ryan, Executive Director, Health Emergencies Program, WHO

"Maybe the reason is the color of the skin of the people," Tedros, who is from Tigray, told a virtual media briefing on Wednesday. 

In April this year at a briefing, he questioned whether "black and white lives" in emergencies worldwide are given equal attention.

WHO emergencies director Mike Ryan also hit out at an apparent shortage of concern about the drought and famine unfolding in the Horn of Africa, and the ensuing health crisis.

"No-one seems to give a damn about what's happening in the Horn of Africa," Ryan said while speaking at a virtual media briefing on Wednesday.

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