Doctors Without Borders reports widespread looting and vandalism of hospitals in Tigray region of Ethiopia, condemns attacks on healthcare

In a statement released Monday, Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières) reported on the extensive damage that has been done to medical facilities in the conflict-stricken Tigray region of Ethiopia, saying that the attacks are having a “devastating impact on the population.”

MSF Teams visited 106 health facilities in Tigray from mid-December to early March, finding that 73% of these clinics had been looted and 87% of facilities were no longer fully functioning.

The teams also found that 20% of health facilities were occupied by soldiers, making the facilities inaccessible to civilians. Throughout the conflict, hospitals have reportedly been occupied by both Ethiopian and Eritrean federal forces.

According to the MSF statement, “While some looting may have been opportunistic, health facilities in most areas appear to have been deliberately vandalized to render them nonfunctional.” At many hospitals, teams found that medical equipment had been intentionally smashed to the point of being unusable.

The report also found that the majority of ambulances in Tigray have been seized by armed forces, leaving hospitals with no means of transporting sick patients.

Médecins Sans Frontières said, “Before the conflict began in November 2020, Tigray had one of the best health systems in Ethiopia… This health system has almost completely collapsed.”

“In the past four months, few pregnant women have received antenatal or postnatal care, and children have gone unvaccinated, raising the risk of future outbreaks of infectious diseases.

Patients with chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and HIV, as well as psychiatric patients, are going without lifesaving drugs. Survivors of sexual violence are often unable to receive medical and psychological care,” the MSF statement concluded.

“The health system needs to be restored as soon as possible,” said MSF General Director Oliver Behn.

Behn asserted that international law is being violated in Tigray, saying “Health facilities and health staff need to be protected during a conflict, in accordance with international humanitarian law. This is clearly not happening in Tigray.”

MSF teams are currently working to rehabilitate some health facilities across the region and are running mobile clinics in locations where the health system is not functioning. However, there are still regions in Tigray without adequate healthcare that have not been able to be reached by organizations like Médecins Sans Frontières.

Noah Pitcher is a global politics correspondent for Today News Africa covering the U.S. government, United Nations, African Union, and other actors involved in international developments, political controversies, and humanitarian issues.

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