2 January 2023
By email to: Unicef Director of Office of Emergency Operations, Manuel Fontaine (firstname.lastname@example.org)
By letter to Catherine M Russell, Executive Director, UNICEF, 3 First Ave, New York, NY 10017, United States
C.C. US State Department, FCDO, EU, Dr Mohamed Babiker, Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights in Eritrea
Dear Manuel Fontaine,
Re. UNICEF and Eritrea
We are writing to you concerning the recent UNICEF $14.7 million 2023 appeal for Eritrea.
[https://www.unicef.org/media/131891/file/2023-HAC-Eritrea.pdf]. Let me say at the outset that we have the highest regard for the work of your organisation and are grateful for the hard work and commitment of your staff in relieving the suffering of our people.
We have concerns about the accuracy of some of the information in the appeal, but these are not the issues we wish to raise with you. However, there is an element of your current appeal which we believe is wholly incorrect and inappropriate, particularly since it comes from a United Nations organisation. The report claims that: “The sanctions that have been imposed on Eritrea have had severe ramifications on the country’s economy. Their detrimental impact on the national economic growth, constraints in foreign currency inflows and barriers to import items necessary for the country’s needs and economic recovery may exacerbate the social problems and raise additional humanitarian concerns.”
As an Eritrean organisation we have kept a close watch on the country’s economy for many years. All past and present sanctions imposed on Eritrea by the UN and by individual nations have been carefully targeted and are not aimed at disrupting the Eritrean economy. It is simply inaccurate to state that they are. In the case of the U.S. government, individuals have been named in the most recent sanctions. So too have the Hidri Trust and the Red Sea Trading Corporation. Both organisations are well known fronts for the Eritrean ruling party – the PFDJ. There is nothing to prevent other companies and individuals undertaking the trading that they have attempted to monopolise. Furthermore, under the UN Sanctions programme, the US, the UK and EU, sanctions are always required to exempt food and medicine.
The suffering the Eritrean people are enduring (some of which your appeal highlights) is intense. It is the result of the many conflicts the government of President Isaias Afwerki has dragged the nation into since independence, combined with the repressive measures that have crippled the country’s economy and left so many of its citizens trapped in indefinite “National Service” that the UN has itself previously acknowledged to be a form of slavery.
In the light of the above we find it shocking that UNICEF, as a member of the UN family of organisations, should repeat the Eritrean government’s propaganda that the suffering of its people is the result of international sanctions.
I would be grateful if you would reply, acknowledging our concerns, and ensure that this mistake is not repeated in future.