AFRICA/ETHIOPIA - Tigray's health system has completely collapsed: local doctors try to "improvise"

Wednesday, 27 April 2022

Addis Ababa (Agenzia Fides) - More than a month after the humanitarian ceasefire declared by the Ethiopian government under Prime Minister Abiy on March 24 (see Fides, 25/3/2022), which had raised great hopes among the affected population, only five convoys have been able to enter the Tigray region with about 150 trucks.
However, according to an estimate by the United Nations, at least 100 trucks with food and other relief supplies are needed every day to cover the needs of six million people in the conflict region.
"A convoy every fortnight doesn't help anyone," said an official involved with the humanitarian aid programs. They have shown that containers can reach the affected areas, but in reality the government is using the aid as part of the political process".
According to official sources, the government has denied this statement and previously accused the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) of looting trucks and blocking the route used by humanitarian convoys in the nearby Afar region.
According to the note sent to Fides, the medical supplies and food flown to Mekelle by the World Health Organization and the Red Cross have only been able to provide a minimum of assistance. Medicines transported by plane account for only four percent of the amount needed, and the lack of local fuel means many of the medicines expire before they can be transported to health centers. "It happens that if patients are lucky, they end up receiving at least expired medicines," said a senior official at Tigray's regional health department. "The others suffer and die without any treatment."
"We tried to improvise," said a worker at the hospital's maternity ward in Ayder. "We tell women to bring their clothes to the hospital to use as gauze and compresses during surgeries and births. The long journeys that pregnant women have to make in dramatic conditions due to a lack of transportation are just the tip of the iceberg," he emphasizes. "A 20-year-old woman lost one of the twins she was carrying and developed serious complications after being carried on a wooden stretcher for 18 hours. Another woman, aged 31, died after bleeding during labor because there was no blood available for a transfusion. A third, 28 years old, died from an easily treatable infection." The doctor adds further details: "Most of them die at home because they don't have access to the health facilities and they don't work. All of that could easily be prevented."
"Add to this the constant power cuts that block the oxygen supply at our hospital in Ayder. The oxygen system at the health facilities has also caught fire twice in the last month. The hospital's ventilators are operated by a generator, but on several occasions the nurses - and sometimes even the patients' relatives - have had to operate the ventilator with their own hands because of the power failure. When this happens, the patients die in most cases. It's all very traumatic," concludes the doctor. (AP) (Agenzia Fides, 27/4/2022)