June 26, 2021
FILE – A convoy of trucks from Medecins Sans Frontieres carrying medical supplies stops by the side of the road after receiving news that the road ahead has been closed by the Ethiopian military, May 8, 2021. PHOTO: AP
By Margaret Besheer | VOA News
Médecins Sans Frontières said Friday that three aid workers for the organization were found dead near their vehicle in Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region.
“No words can truly convey all our sadness, shock and outrage against this horrific attack,” the medical charity said in a statement. “Nor can words soothe the loss and suffering of their families and loved ones, to whom we relay our deepest sympathy and condolences.”
MSF said they lost contact with the staffers Thursday, and Friday morning their vehicle was found empty, and their bodies lay a few meters from it.
They identified the victims as Maria Hernandez, 35, MSF’s emergency coordinator who is a Spanish national; Yohannes Halefom Reda, 31, assistant coordinator and an Ethiopian national; and Tedros Gebremariam Gebremichael, 31, their driver and also an Ethiopian citizen.
“The death of Maria, Yohannes and Tedros is a devastating blow to all of us, both in Ethiopia and in the other countries where we operate around the world,” MSF said in the statement.
U.N. Spokesman Stephane Dujarric tweeted, “We cannot condemn strongly enough attacks on humanitarian workers.”
He noted that aid workers are too often targeted with the intention of scaring away humanitarians.
“But what it does is denies men, women and children who need help, the help that they need,” he said, adding the United Nations condolences to those tweeted by UNICEF and the ICRC.
Tigray has been the center of hostilities since November, when fighting broke out between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the government of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
The fighting has exacerbated an already complex humanitarian situation in Tigray, where some 350,000 people are facing famine and at least 4 million others are coping with severe hunger. Aid groups have appealed for access, but they are often denied it by armed groups.
U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi urged parties to the conflict to protect the safety of both civilians and humanitarians on the ground in a statement earlier Friday.
“Civilians, including refugees have suffered enough and UNHCR and other humanitarian agencies must be allowed to help them,” Grandi said. “Only improved security and entry and access throughout Tigray will allow UNHCR and other humanitarian partners to carry out our mandate to assist those desperately in need.”