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UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths to step down due to health reasons | United Nations News

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Griffiths has worked as the UN’s under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs for three years.

UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths, who has played a key role in pressing for aid to the Gaza Strip and led earlier efforts for Yemen, has announced he will step down due to ill health.

Griffiths, who has headed the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and served as the emergency relief coordinator for three years, said he has informed Secretary-General Antonio Guterres of his intention to step down in June.

“To everyone at UNOCHA, it’s been the privilege of my life. I am deeply in your debt. To all partners and supporters, thank you for championing the cause of people in crises,” he said on Monday in a post on the social media platform X.

In recent months, the under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs has repeatedly pressed for Israel to allow humanitarian assistance into Gaza, which has been devastated by a more than five-month Israeli military assault and severe restrictions on aid supplies.

Several NGOs and rights organisations have accused Israel of deliberately blocking aid to Gaza as warnings of famine in the besieged strip rise. Israel has denied the accusations.

Last month, Griffiths warned Israel not to ignore calls against a planned assault on the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where 1.5 million Palestinians have taken shelter, warning that an Israeli operation “could lead to a slaughter”.

“The October 7 attacks on Israel are horrific – I have condemned them repeatedly and will continue to do so. But they cannot justify what is happening to every single child, woman and man in Gaza,” Griffiths wrote in an op-ed for Al Jazeera in February.

He has also raised the alarm on other ongoing humanitarian crises around the world.

This month, he warned that nearly five million people in Sudan could suffer catastrophic hunger in the coming months.

He has also faced criticism for his work.

After a trip to conflict-torn Myanmar last August, civil society groups said his visit failed to make substantial progress on humanitarian assistance and lent legitimacy to military coup leaders who had “weaponized aid”.

In a statement after his trip, Griffiths noted successive crises had left a third of Myanmar’s population in need of aid, and he appealed to the military to improve access to humanitarian relief.

“We need better access so we can help them daily, every day, every week, safely and securely,” he  said.

Griffiths previously served as the UN special envoy for Yemen and has been an adviser on Syria.

He has also worked for other international humanitarian organisations, including UNICEF, Save the Children and ActionAid.

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