|Teshome Mandefro Egrete, 56 (shown here in an undated photo), an Ethiopian national working on water-supply projects with UNICEF Afghanistan, was one of the victims of the 28 October attack on a UN guesthouse in Kabul.|
NEW YORK, USA, 7 December 2009 – The familiar blue flag flew at half mast in front of United Nations headquarters a few weeks ago. Its emblem of peace – a global map cradled by olive branches – flapped in a brisk autumn breeze. The flag had been lowered in memory of the five UN staff and others killed in the 28 October attack on an international guest house in Kabul.
After confirming his identity and notifying his family, UNICEF has now disclosed that one of the fallen was Teshome Mandefro Egrete, 56, an Ethiopian engineer who was working with the agency on an assignment that began in September.
Mr. Egrete’s funeral was held in Addis Ababa this past weekend. He is survived by a grieving wife and teenage son, and an extended family in deep shock.
That shock extends to all of Mr. Egrete’s colleagues at UNICEF and other UN agencies, and to the entire humanitarian aid community. Although he had lived and worked in Afghanistan for just a short time, he died there under the banner of peace and human development.
For this, we honour his memory and that of the others who were lost.
A life-saving legacy
Mr. Egrete leaves behind a legacy of saving and improving lives with his grit and intelligence, and the sheer skill of his hands.
He was in the drilling business by trade, starting out as a mechanic in the late 1970s and honing his skills over three busy decades. Trained in his home country and the United Kingdom, he became a drilling instructor and superintendent, and a senior advisor on complex water-supply projects operated by the government and private companies across Ethiopia.
Mr. Egrete had travelled to Afghanistan to assist the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development with the operation and maintenance of drilling rigs used to construct wells for communities in need. It was not a political mission but a practical one: to provide safe water for Afghan families – thereby saving the lives of thousands of children under the age of five who could otherwise die from diarrhoea and other waterborne diseases.
It was a worthy mission that tragically became his last.
‘In service to humanity’
Executive Director Ann M. Veneman expressed outrage and grief over the human toll of the Kabul attack. “UNICEF extends its deepest condolences to Teshome’s family and friends,” she said on 30 November, after his remains had been formally identified through genetic testing. “He died in the service of humanity.”
Despite such attacks, UNICEF and its partners continue that service, not only in Afghanistan but throughout the developing world.
By continuing our work, we carry on the legacies of colleagues like Mr. Egrete and Perseveranda So, the UNICEF educator who died in a bombing in Pakistan six months ago. By looking ahead, we build on the achievements of at least two dozen other UN aid workers who have been killed in violent attacks this year alone. By refusing to yield, we hold high the ideal of peace symbolized by the familiar blue flag flying outside the UN in New York.
Today, in memory of Teshome Mandefro Egrete, we rededicate ourselves to that ideal.