The United Nations is calling on the Ethiopian government to rescind its decision to expel top UN officials from the country, warning that the actions endanger life-saving humanitarian work. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva.
On Thursday, the Ethiopian government told seven senior officials, including the United Nations Children’s Fund and OCHA, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, that they had 72 hours to leave the country.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet says she regrets the government’s decision to designate UN officials as personalityless or unwanted persons.
It dismissed allegations that one of its employees and four human rights monitors were interfering in Ethiopia’s internal affairs. His spokesman, Rupert Colville, said no warning of an impending eviction had been received.
“Basically, it was a bombing that suddenly went off yesterday afternoon and I think we were all completely surprised. Also, by the scale of it. Seven employees across three agencies is extremely rare, if not unprecedented,” Colville said. .
OCHA spokesman Jens Larke said senior UN officials are responsible for overseeing the humanitarian work of multiple agencies, including non-governmental organizations. He warned that his expulsion would have dire consequences for the millions of destitute, homeless people in the conflict-torn Tigre region of northern Ethiopia.
“It remains very serious and there is an escalation of conflict in the neighboring Amhara and Afar regions, which means increasing humanitarian needs and increasing the number of internally displaced people. … Food insecurity is at least increasing. Emergency food aid in Tigre targeted 5.2 million people,” Larke said.
However, trucks carrying emergency food and other humanitarian supplies are stuck in Afar. They are not moving towards Tigre because of insecurity and other restrictions.
Larke said only 11% of designated humanitarian trucks have entered the Tigre since July.
UN agencies are urging Ethiopian officials to reconsider Thursday’s decision and allow UN officials to remain in the country to continue their human rights and humanitarian work.