The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said the Ethiopian government’s decision to expel seven senior UN humanitarian officials from the country was “regrettable and worrying”.
UNICEF in a statement Friday called its work “more urgent than ever,” and children are bearing the “biggest brunt” of the country’s worsening humanitarian crisis.
“We have full confidence in the teams working on the ground to save the lives of children, who are as always guided by the principles of impartiality, humanity, neutrality and independence. Our program will continue,” added UNICEF, noting that the program has been present in the African country for more than 60 years.
The seven officials were given 72 hours to leave Ethiopia. They include UNICEF representatives and the deputy head of the United Nations Office for Humanitarian Affairs.
In a joke, Ethiopia’s foreign ministry said the seven had “interfered in the country’s internal affairs.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Thursday he was “shocked,” after the Ethiopian government announced the expulsions.
“In Ethiopia, the United Nations is providing lifesaving assistance including food, medicine, water and sanitation supplies to people in greatest need,” Guterres said in a statement. “I have full confidence in the UN staff who are in Ethiopia to do this work.”
He said the organization was engaging with the Ethiopian authorities “with the hope that the UN staff will be allowed to continue their important work”. [my/pp]