Ethiopia: Dwindling medical supplies in northern Ethiopia prevent health workers from aiding those in need (18.01.2022)

The ICRC is profoundly concerned over availability of medical treatment, including medicine and medical equipment.

MOPTI, Mali, January 18, 2022 – As the conflict in northern Ethiopia continues to evolve, hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced, putting enormous strain on the region’s health-care system and medical staff.

The ICRC is profoundly concerned over availability of medical treatment, including medicine and medical equipment. Health-care services are lacking essential medical supplies, and in some cases infrastructure has been severely damaged. This makes access to health care very challenging, depriving people of the essentials they need to survive.

The ICRC is adapting its assistance efforts with a focus on the most vulnerable. However, our capacity to respond has become limited as medical supplies dwindle, with delivery of humanitarian assistance seriously hampered by a combination of fighting, insecurity and access constraints.

“Some hospitals in Amhara have closed due to lack of medicines,” said Micha Wedekind, who is in charge of the ICRC’s response in Amhara and Afar. “People with chronic diseases are dying every day and women are giving birth at home as health facilities are not functional and often without electricity or water.”

“In Tigray, single-use items such as gloves, surgical materials and even chest drains are being washed and reused, increasing the risk of infections. In some places, doctors have replaced disinfectant by salt to clean wounds,” said Apollo Barasa, the health coordinator at the ICRC delegation in Ethiopia. “Patients are receiving expired medications, oxygen plants are not working anymore, and some health facilities cannot provide routine vaccines.

The ICRC reminds all parties to the conflict that they must facilitate without delay the delivery of humanitarian assistance to those who need it most.

Our medical support this month has included to seven health care facilities around Dessie, including Hayk, Mersa, Woldiya and Kobo. Throughout 2021, together with the Ethiopian Red Cross Society, the ICRC supported 130 health facilities in Amhara, Afar, Tigray, Oromia and Somali region. More than 110,000 people have benefited from our medical programs and 9,800 persons received physiotherapy and mobility treatment.

Beyond medical assistance, the ICRC continues to be concerned over the food and livelihood situation in northern Ethiopia. Last week our teams were able to bring humanitarian assistance to communities in Lalibela, Amhara, for the first time in six months, providing 2,500 people with food and 6,000 people with household items such as mattresses, jerrycans, kitchen sets and solar lamps. In Mekelle, the ICRC has distributed essential household and hygiene items to more than 900 displaced people.

Finally, whilst maintaining our operations in the area, the ICRC is deeply concerned by recent reports of continued fighting in northern Ethiopia causing civilian casualties, including in recent airstrikes.

We call upon all parties to the conflict to respect the rules and obligation of international humanitarian law, which provide that civilians are protected against attack and that everything feasible must be done to verify that targets are military objectives. To the extent feasible, civilians must also be removed from the vicinity of military objectives.

In 2021, the ICRC has:

– Assisted 655,000 people with household supplies, shelter and cash throughout the country, with a focus on northern Ethiopia
– Provided 875,000 people with agricultural and livestock assistance
– Facilitated access to clean water and sanitations to 1,950,000 people, including in places of detention
– Helped over 169,000 people restore or maintain family links, facilitating exchange of news by family members.

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