Patients are dying in Tigray owing to a lack of oxygen and medicines, according to a doctor at the region’s main hospital, as physicians struggle to care for the sick in the face of frequent power outages and fuel shortages.
The secluded northern region of 5.5 million people continues to suffer under a de facto embargo as the 16-month conflict between Tigrayan forces and Ethiopian government forces drags on.
Patients who would have otherwise lived are dying at the Ayderreferral hospital in Mekelle, the regional capital.
“Patients pass away. Every day, we hear about patients dying from a lack of oxygen, a shortage of this drug, a lack of that drug,” said the doctor, who asked not to be identified for security concerns.
The World Health Organization has reported that it has been unable to bring medical supplies into Tigray since July, and that while some have arrived, physicians and humanitarian workers say they are nowhere near enough to address the requirements of a population that has been without basic necessities for months.
The Ethiopian government has denied that it has effectively blockaded Tigray, as claimed by the UN.
Military offensives by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), most recently in northern Afar, have reportedly obstructed delivery routes, according to the report.
Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government has also accused TPLF forces of plundering equipment and medication from health institutions in sections of the Amhara and Afar regions that they controlled during last year’s war.
Last summer, TPLF rebels plundered a hospital in the Amhara town of NifasMewcha, as well as medical facilities in the towns of Kobo and Chenna, according to Amnesty International.
Apart from their patients’ challenges, the hospital’s 2,000-strong staff has their own issues: they haven’t been paid since May, they claim.
The team of Ayder hopes that, in the midst of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the international community would remember Tigray.
“Of course, there are many challenges facing the world,” the doctor replied, “but we are members of the human community.”
“We’re hoping that our narrative may pique the interest of someone somewhere.”