UN aid chief to step down in June amid mounting humanitarian crises

Veteran Welsh diplomat Martin Griffiths has held the position since 2021

Martin Griffiths has informed the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres of his intention to step down as the UN's top emergency relief co-ordinator by June. Reuters
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Martin Griffiths, the UN's chief emergency relief co-ordinator, has announced plans to step down by the end of June, as numerous humanitarian crises including the Israel-Gaza war continue.

In a post on X on Monday, Mr Griffiths said he had informed UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres of his intention to step down but did not provide a reason for his decision.

“To everyone at @UNOCHA, it's been the privilege of my life. I am deeply in your debt,” he wrote.

“To all partners and supporters, thank you for championing the cause of people in crises.”

The Welsh veteran diplomat renowned for his steadfast values and mediation skills has held the position of under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs at the UN since 2021.

In this role, Mr Griffiths has been at the forefront of complex negotiations, notably engaging with President Bashar Al Assad over gaining entry to the quake-ravaged regions of northern Syria, forging a vital accord between Ukraine and Russia to safeguard grain exports across the Black Sea and confronting the fallout of catastrophic floods in Libya.

His announcement comes amid significant humanitarian crises in Gaza, with the spectre of famine casting a long shadow.

In an exclusive interview with The National last month, Mr Griffiths said the Gaza crisis was the worst he had seen and “it's for one very specific reason” – months into the war, “Gazans are trapped … as has been the case for many years”.

“We now have in the south around Rafah an area traditionally for about 200,000 to 250,000 people,” he said.

“We have something like six times that number, bunched into that area, as the wall comes down towards them from Khan Younis, as it moves south.

“Where are they going to go? It's not as if the Palestinians want a second Nakba.”

Gaza war is worst I have seen, UN aid chief says – video

Gaza war is worst I have seen, UN aid chief says

Gaza war is worst I have seen, UN aid chief says

The UN aid chief has repeatedly called for Israel to allow humanitarian assistance into the Gaza Strip as it wages a military campaign in response to the October 7 attack by Hamas.

Last month, he warned Israel not to ignore calls against an assault in Rafah, where about 1.5 million Palestinians have taken shelter, warning that an Israeli operation “could lead to a slaughter”.

He has also raised the alarm on other humanitarian crises around the world, including in Sudan, where the threat of widespread hunger also looms.

“I imagine we will find that the suffering in Sudan is as great as maybe in some parts of Gaza and other parts of the world,” he told The National.

“The suffering in Sudan in the absence of international attention and international support for the people of Sudan is something which we should be deeply ashamed of.”

Mr Griffiths formerly held the position of the UN Secretary General's special envoy to Yemen and served as an adviser to each of the three special envoys for Syria, in addition to various other roles.

Updated: March 26, 2024, 5:56 PM