Almost 70% of health facilities in Ethiopia’s war-hit northern region of Tigray have been looted and more than 30% had been damaged, a report by Medecins Sans Frontieres said.
The medical charity said health facilities were “deliberately” attacked to make them “non-functional”, which has caused a “devastating” impact on the population, MSF said.
It visited 106 health facilities between mid-December 2020 and early March 2021.
The conflict erupted on November 4, 2020, after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered an offensive to oust the region’s former ruling party.
The damaged, looted facilities and resulting lack of medical staff means people in the region have very little access to healthcare.
The health system needs to be restored as soon as possible. https://t.co/Rem0zDMLIB
— MSF International (@MSF) March 15, 2021
There are still reports of fighting despite Ahmed declaring victory at the end of November.
Before the conflict, Tigray had one of the best health systems in Ethiopia, according to MSF.
The charity reported a hospital in the town of Semema had been set on fire and a delivery room at Sebeya was destroyed after the facility was hit by a rocket.
The charity also said in rural areas of Tigray women died in childbirth because they were unable to get to a hospital due to the lack of ambulances, rampant insecurity on the roads and a night-time curfew.
‘Protect health facilities’
“The health system needs to be restored as soon as possible,” said MSF’s general director Oliver Behn,
“Health facilities need to be rehabilitated and receive more supplies and ambulances, and staff need to receive salaries and the opportunity to work in a safe environment.
“Most importantly, all armed groups in this conflict need to respect and protect health facilities and medical staff.”
Hundreds of civilians have been killed in the conflict and tens of thousands have been displaced.
Only 13% of the 106 facilities that teams from MSF visited between December and early March were operating normally.
In early March, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet called for an objective and independent investigation into Tigray, after having “corroborated serious violations” likely to constitute as “war crimes and crimes against humanity”.