The leader of the World Health Organization, who has repeatedly urged the international community to stop the armed conflict in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, said on Wednesday that Eritrean forces there had killed his uncle along with more than 50 others.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the W.H.O., who was born in Tigray, made the announcement at the end of a news conference in Geneva, where he and others had discussed Covid-19, mpox and other health crises.
Dr. Tedros said he had considered canceling the news conference after he received word on Saturday that his uncle, whom he did not name, had been “murdered” by Eritrean troops in a Tigrayan village, in what he described as an attack that was “just arbitrary.”
“I spoke to my mother and she was really devastated because he was the youngest from their family,” Dr. Tedros said, adding that his uncle had been close to his own age, 57.
The Ethiopian government and the leadership of the Tigray region reached a deal last month intended to stop the fighting. The agreement did not include Eritrea, Ethiopia’s northern neighbor, whose troops have fought alongside the Ethiopian military. Eritrean forces have been accused of some of the most heinous atrocities in the war, including ethnic massacres and sexual violence.
“I hope the peace agreement will hold and this madness would stop,” Dr. Tedros said. “But it’s just a very, very difficult moment for me.”
Ethiopian and Eritrean officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment about Dr. Tedros’s remarks.
Dr. Tedros, who was a minister in the Ethiopian government when it was led by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, has called for more urgent action to stop the war in Tigray. The crisis has left thousands dead, forced more than two million people from their homes and left parts of Ethiopia in famine-like conditions.
The conflict, which began more than two years ago, has involved the Ethiopian military, ethnic militias and Eritrean troops who have fought to oust the Tigray People’s Liberation Front from its stronghold in Tigray.
Dr. Tedros has called the crisis “the worst disaster on Earth,” and has accused Western nations of ignoring the suffering there. “Maybe the reason is the color of the skin of the people in Tigray,” he has said.