Feature: Amidst ‘medical catastrophe’ in Tigray, Ethiopia accuses WHO DG of ‘misconduct’

Shire hospital serves more than one million people in the area. MSF supports pediatrics, the ITFC and waste management. When MSF first arrived, we helped clean and renovate the hospital and donated food to the hospital kitchen. Shire hospital was not as badly looted as other health structures but there are many robberies after the 6.30 pm curfew.

Addis Abeba: In a letter sent to the Executive Board of the World Health Organization (WHO), Ethiopia filed its “objection against the Director-General of WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom” over what it said was the DG’s “moral, legal and professional standing that threatened WHO’s organizational integrity.”

The letter was sent to the WHO executive board after Dr. Tedros said that “a de facto blockade” imposed by the Ethiopian government has created “hell” in Tigray regional state, and was “an insult to our humanity.”

The situation is “so dreadful and unimaginable during this time, the 21st century, when a government is denying its own people for more than a year food and medicine and the rest to survive,” Dr. Tedros told international media on December 10. According to him the “WHO was able to dispatch 14 MT of medical supplies to Afar and 70 MT to Amhara in December last year, but “in Tigray, WHO has not been permitted to deliver medical supplies since mid-July of last year despite repeated request.”

“Nowhere in the world are we witnessing hell like in Tigray,” Dr. Tedros said. His statement was echoed by WHO’s emergencies chief Michael Ryan, who said the current status has left the people with “no access to the very basic life-saving interventions that we in the west would expect immediately, instantly. This is an insult to our humanity.”

It’s not clear if the letter filed by Ethiopia responded to Dr. Tedros’ statement, but the statement issued by MoFA accused him of abusing “his position by assigning staff in WHO’s country office in Ethiopia with a task of executing the plot to inflate the emergency level in Ethiopia, from 1.8 million people to 3.8 million, to warrant humanitarian intervention.”

“This misrepresentation of facts is used to misinform the UN Security Council,” MoFA said, adding that Ethiopia “urges the WHO Executive Board to commission an investigation on the Director-General to identify his misconduct and violation of his professional and legal responsibility as provided under the Standards of Conduct for the International Civil Service, staff rules and regulations of WHO, and Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct of WHO.”

“In wars there are always many wrongs, often on both sides, but the worst is to deny food and medical care to innocent civilians—anywhere”

The Lancet

The Lancet appeals to world leaders

On January 12, a renowned global peer-reviewed general medical journal, issued an appeal to world leaders in which it described the situation in Tigray as “a medical catastrophe”. “In short – a medical catastrophe is unfolding, in the background of war, famine, and a humanitarian tragedy.”

“The situation at Ayder Comprehensive Specialized Hospital, a major teaching institution in Mekele in Tigray, is dire.In wars there are always many wrongs, often on both sides, but the worst is to deny food and medical care to innocent civilians—anywhere. As such, we, along with signatories of this Correspondence, appeal to the world’s medical community to demand protection of hospitals such as Ayder from attack, and furthermore we plead for assistance in ensuring the provision of food, equipment, and medications to care for the civilian population of Tigray,” The Lancent said.

Ayder Hospital Doctors make desperate plea

On January 04 a “Position Statement of Doctors and other health professionals of Ayder Comprehensive Specialized Hospital” issued a desperate plea to the world in which they revealed that “the availability of essential drugs, which was 79.3% a couple of years ago and 82% a year ago has now gone down to 17.5%. The availability of laboratory tests which was 93.7%, a couple of years ago and 84.2% a year ago, has now gone down to 42.1%.”

The statement further said that doctors and medical professionals “have used and are still using expired drugs” and that the “neurosurgery team has decided to operate on patients with problems in the brain just based on clinical examinations, without having the support of CT scan and/or MRI images which have both been not functional for many months because spare parts could not reach our city due to the complete blockage.”

The medical team “haven’t been paid our well-deserved salaries for the last seven months, our extra–time payments for nearly 13 months,” and they “are unable to withdraw whatever amount of money we have had in governmental and private banks because of the complete shutdown of banking service.
We have nothing to feed our families and ourselves.”

According to the Ministry of Health based onHealth Related Indicators published by MoH,” in 2020, “Tigray has 41 Hospitals, 226 Health Centers and 743 Health Posts.” Addis Standard’s repeated attempt to get comments from the Ministry’s Public Relation bureau were to no avail.

In March last year however, out of 106 health facilities visited by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) teams in Tigray from mid-December to early March, nearly 70 percent had been looted and more than 30 percent had been damaged. Only 13 percent were functioning normally. “Health facilities across Ethiopia’s Tigray region have been looted, vandalized, and destroyed in a deliberate and widespread attack on health care,” MSF said. AS

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