WHO chief recalls own ‘war child’ past in Ethiopia in peace plea

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The World Health Organization’s chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Monday recalled the pain of his own wartime upbringing in Ethiopia as he pleaded with global leaders to unite for peace.

The WHO has called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in the war between Israel and Hamas for the safe delivery of food, medical supplies and other aid into the Gaza Strip.

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Tedros said on X, formerly Twitter, that he was making “a humble plea for ceasefire and peace.”

“As a child trapped in the shadows of war, I intimately knew its smell, sounds and sights. I empathize deeply with those now caught in the middle of conflict, feeling their pain as if it were my own,” he said.

“War brings only devastation, horror, and destruction. Nothing else.

“In this critical moment, let us rise above the divisions and embrace the path of peace. The truest display of courage lies in choosing peace. I call on world leaders to unite and lead the world towards peace.”

Israel has heavily bombarded Gaza since Hamas gunmen stormed across the border on October 7, killing 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapping more than 220 others, according to Israeli officials.

The health ministry in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip said the strikes have killed more than 8,000 people, mainly civilians and many of them children.

Tedros has condemned the”unjustified and horrific” Hamas attack, and has said “children are paying the price” in the bombardment of targets in Gaza.

When re-elected for his second WHO term in May last year, Tedros, 58, recalled his humble upbringing as “a child of war... from a poor family.”

With a trembling voice, he recalled experiencing conflict at a very young age, as he described how the strong emotions came rushing back during a recent visit to Ukraine.

“When I saw the kids, it was the image from more than 50 years ago that came to my mind; so visible, so haunting; the smell of war, the sound of war, the image of war,” he said, in tears.

“That’s what I don’t want to happen to anyone. So I hope peace will come.”

Read more: Lebanon PM Mikati says working to avoid entering ‘war’ with Israel

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