Ayder Hospital is operating well beyond its capacity, with resources that continue to shrink. RFI/Sébastien Nemeth

Sébastien Nemeth

14 June 2022

The conflict has been going on since November in Tigray region. This northern region is still plagued by violence between the former TPLF leadership on the one hand, and the federal army, Eritrean soldiers and Amharas militia on the other. The conflict has resulted in thousands of deaths and extensive damage. Part of the health care system has collapsed.

From our special correspondent in Mekele

300,000 patients last year. 8,000 surgical operations. A coverage area that reaches 10 million people. Ayder Hospital is the largest in Tigray. But when the conflict hit the region in November, the situation quickly turned into a disaster.

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“There was no electricity. We used the generator, but it can’t run all the time. Many patients died,” explains Muse Tesfaye Atsbaha, the administrator. He continues: “Even today there are power cuts. People are dying for lack of medication. We do what we can to save lives. But when the number of patients explodes, when never-seen-before cases arrive, it hurts a lot.”

“It’s part of a genocide”

In the corridors, the caregivers are busy. The wards are full. Khalayu Kindeya is a 76-year-old priest. He was seriously wounded in the leg a hundred kilometers from Mekele. He has been in hospital for two months.

“I was coming back from church and there was a bombing by the federal army on the village. One of my neighbors was killed,” he says. The old man owes his salvation to the responsiveness of his son. Living in the capital, Mickaël managed to get his father to Ayder Hospital. “There was a health center, but because of the fighting all the health workers fled. Someone told me that he was injured. I was able to contact the Red Cross to get him out. These attacks are intentional. It’s part of a genocide,” says Mickaël.

Patients continue to pour in

Although Addis Ababa declared an end to military operations in November, the violence continues. Every day new patients of all ages arrive from all parts of Tigray.

Beriha Gebray is 15 years old. She comes from Samre, 60 km away. A bullet went through her head, gouging out both her eyes. She is now blind. Her father Gebray Zenebe holds her hand. “The Eritreans shot at people for no reason. I took my injured daughter to a village and we walked,” says Gebray Zenebe. Then he adds: “I am devastated to see her like this, but at least she is alive. Others have lost everything. This conflict is horrible. We are killing each other. The world has to react, it has to stop. ”

“If this continues, we will all break down”

Ayder Hospital is now operating well beyond its capacity, with resources that continue to shrink. Daniel Weldu is the head of the emergency department. For him, the situation is unsustainable. “I’m understaffed. Some have lost their families and have had to stop working because they can no longer concentrate. Others are afraid of insecurity. Our employees are traumatized. If this continues, we will all break down,” fears Dr. Weldu.

For the employees, only a ceasefire and a reopening of the health centers in Tigray will improve the situation. But for now, no one sees any change on the horizon.

Source: RFI