Remarks at an OCHA Briefing on the Humanitarian Situation in Ethiopia

Ambassador Elisabeth Millard
Acting U.S. Representative to the Economic and Social Council
New York, New York
March 25, 2021


Good morning, everyone. Thank you so much to Ambassador Amde and to OCHA, to Reena for bringing us together this morning to learn more and to discuss this deeply concerning humanitarian situation in Ethiopia.

I want to thank our briefers for providing such comprehensive and frank assessment of the situation on the ground.  And let me say to Wafaa, thank you so much for your service as Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator during this intense and critical time. We want to specifically thank you for your efforts to facilitate evacuation convoys for UN and humanitarian staff, as well as foreigners, from Tigray, from the region at the start of the conflict.

And we welcome Grant Leaity as the incoming Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator.

As so many of the others we’ve heard this morning, we are deeply concerned by what we have heard today, particularly the details of the number of vulnerable children, women, and men who have suffered untold hardship, many of them life-threatening, since this conflict broke out approximately five months ago.

And, as others, we are deeply alarmed by the reports yesterday from Doctors Without Borders detailing senseless killing and the assault on a humanitarian aid worker.

And we express our solidarity with Doctors Without Borders and call for the protection of civilians. We also call on armed groups to respect the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

Two weeks ago in the UN Security Council, the United States spoke about our concerns about the impact of conflict on food security in Ethiopia.  And we’ve learned here today even more details about just how severe the impact of the ongoing violence has been on the lives of so many.

We recognize the Government of Ethiopia’s recent announcement allowing humanitarian agencies unhindered access to the Tigray region and we acknowledge that the implementation of the notification system has resulted in some improvement in the movement of international staff to Tigray.  This is essential to continued and effective operations.

Humanitarian organizations continue to face challenges in both identifying and accessing beneficiaries, especially those in rural areas, and humanitarian workers continue to face threats to their own safety and ability to operate.  Fighting continues in some areas of Tigray making access difficult and posing a continuing threat to civilians.

To improve the ability of humanitarian organizations to do its work, it is critical that the Government of Ethiopia allow them to import and operate emergency telecommunications equipment.  As Sylvia also spoke about, this equipment is urgently needed to enable humanitarians to safely expand their reach to vulnerable populations outside of the main towns and major roadways.  We note that some progress has been made in this regard.

The United States calls on the Ethiopian government to uphold fully its commitment to safe and unhindered humanitarian access and underscores the need for the forces operating in the Tigray region to end fighting immediately.  The humanitarian situation will continue to worsen without a political solution. We also reiterate our call for Eritrean and Amhara regional forces to immediately withdraw from Tigray.

Finally, the United States is deeply committed to the efforts of the UN and other international actors in getting life-saving support to those who have borne the brunt of this conflict and who now face unimaginable challenges in rebuilding their lives and their families.

Long-term peace, stability, and reconciliation cannot happen until there are independent international and domestic investigations and the government follows through on its promise to pursue justice and accountability for all.

Thank you.