WHO's Tedros says narrow window to 'prevent genocide' in Ethiopia


Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) speaks following his re-election during the 75th World Health Assembly at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, May 24, 2022. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

NAIROBI, Oct 19 (Reuters) - World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday there was a "very narrow window now to prevent genocide" in his home region of Tigray in northern Ethiopia.

Tedros, who previously served as Ethiopia's health minister and foreign affairs minister, has been sharply critical of Ethiopian authorities throughout the two-year war.

The government has, in turn, accused him of trying to procure arms and diplomatic backing for rebel forces - charges he has denied.


In his sharpest comments on the war yet, Tedros told reporters in Geneva that food and healthcare were being used as weapons of war in Tigray, which is largely cut off from the outside world.


"There's no other situation globally in which 6 million people have been kept under siege for almost two years," Tedros said. "There is a very narrow window now to prevent genocide."


Ethiopian government spokesperson Legesse Tulu, Redwan Hussein, the national security advisor to the prime minister, and the prime minister's spokesperson Billene Seyoum did not immediately respond to requests for comment.


The Ethiopian government has repeatedly denied blocking humanitarian supplies to Tigray or targeting civilians. The conflict has killed thousands, displaced millions and left hundreds of thousands on the brink of famine.


Ethiopian forces and their allies have captured several towns in Tigray this week, raising fears that the advancing soldiers will commit abuses against civilians.