Thousands killed in Ethiopia’s conflict, Tigray side asserts

With the leaders of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front on the run in rugged territory, fears of a drawn-out conflict continue. (File/AFP)
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Updated 04 December 2020

Thousands killed in Ethiopia’s conflict, Tigray side asserts

  • Ethiopian forces over the weekend announced they had “full control” of the Tigray capital, Mekele, a city of a half-million people

NAIROBI, Kenya: Several thousand combatants have been killed in Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region, an official with the fugitive regional government has asserted, although claims remain difficult to verify a month after the fighting erupted between Ethiopian and regional forces.
Getachew Reda, a senior adviser to the Tigray leader, in an interview with Tigray TV aired Thursday urged young people and others in the region to “rise and deploy to battle in tens of thousands” days after Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed over the weekend declared victory.
With the leaders of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front on the run in rugged territory, fears of a drawn-out conflict continue. But with communications and transport links still largely severed to the region of 6 million people, it’s difficult to know the situation on the ground, including the extent of popular support for the TPLF and the number of people killed.
“Our capacity to resist ultimately depends on the support we get from our people,” Getachew said. “It is possible to have the scenario where we stop everything and turn all the people into soldiers.”
He didn’t say how many people are actively fighting but said “our army is doing amazing things with limited numbers,” and he claimed there had been tens of thousands of deaths among Ethiopian forces and those from neighboring Eritrea, which the TPLF insists is also involved. Ethiopia’s government denies that.
Getachew also acknowledged casualties on the TPLF side but didn’t say how many.
Ethiopian forces over the weekend announced they had “full control” of the Tigray capital, Mekele, a city of a half-million people. Getachew said their side had made a “strategic withdrawal” from the city to minimize destruction.
It is not clear how many people were killed as Ethiopian forces moved in on Mekele, but the International Committee of the Red Cross over the weekend said the city’s largest hospital had run out of body bags and staff suspended other services to focus on the wounded.
Ethiopian government spokesman Redwan Hussein didn’t immediately respond to a question about the current estimated death toll in the conflict.


Lack of coordination will prolong pandemic and cost lives, says UN chief

Updated 49 min 6 sec ago

Lack of coordination will prolong pandemic and cost lives, says UN chief

  • Antonio Guterres said ‘vaccinationalism’ — where rich countries hoard vaccines and the poor get none — is a self-defeating strategy
  • In a video message released as the global death toll reached 2 million, he said ‘COVID-19 cannot be beaten one country at a time’

NEW YORK: UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres warned on Friday that a lack of global coordination in efforts to end the coronavirus crisis will prolong the pandemic and cause more deaths, particularly in poorer countries.
In a video message released as the global COVID-19 death toll reached the “heart-wrenching” milestone of 2 million lives lost, he appealed for countries to work more closely together to end the pandemic and its cycle of death.
It took 10 months after the disease emerged in December 2019 to reach the first “grim milestone” of 1 million dead at the end of September last year. That number has now doubled in less than four months.
In addition to the human cost, the pandemic has wreaked havoc in the economies of almost every nation. Many people have lost their jobs and livelihoods, with millions forced into poverty and hunger worldwide.
Guterres said that behind that staggering 2 million figure are the names and faces of real people who were taken from their families.
“The smile now only a memory, the seat forever empty at the dinner table, the room that echoes with the silence of a loved one,” Guterres said as he calling for greater international solidarity “in memory of those two million souls.”
As safe and effective vaccines are approved and rolled out, the UN is supporting the largest global immunization operation in history. Guterres stressed that the organization is committed to ensuring vaccines are treated as a global public resource — the “people’s vaccines.”
With that in mind, he called for full funding of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator — a global collaboration that aims to speed up the development, production and equitable distribution of vaccines, ensuring fair access to them — and its COVAX Facility, an initiative involving 64 higher-income countries that is working to ensure vaccines reach all those in most dire need. It was set up in response to a call by G20 leaders in March last year and launched the following month by the WHO and partners including the EU, France, the UK, Canada and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
“The world’s leading economies have a special responsibility,” said Guterres, denouncing what he described as “a vaccine vacuum” created by rich countries buying up vaccine supplies, leaving none for the world’s poorest nations. Some countries are “pursuing side deals, even procuring beyond need,” he added.
While all governments have a responsibility to protect their populations, Guterres warned that indulging in such “vaccinationalism” is self-defeating and will delay a global recovery.
“COVID-19 cannot be beaten one country at a time,” he added.
The UN chief called on all countries to share excess doses of vaccine so that health workers around the world can be inoculated as a matter of urgency to prevent the collapse of health systems, and so that those on front line of the battle against the pandemic and its effects can be prioritized, including humanitarian workers and people in high-risk populations.
As the virus continues to spiral out of control in a number of countries, Guterres urged caution and called on everyone to take precautions to protect the most vulnerable in society and slow the spread of infections.
“As the science continues to blaze new trails of hope, let’s also remember the simple and proven steps we can all take to keep each other safe: wearing masks, physically distancing and avoiding crowds,” he added.