Medical blockade prevents life saving c-sections for Tigray mothers and infants

A nurse midwife at Mekelle University Ayder Hospital tends to mother and a newborn prior to the invasion of Tigray in November 2020 and subsequent medical blockade. Source WHO

Destruction of health care facilities and blockade of medical supplies to Tigray by Ethiopian government cost the lives of Tigrayan mothers and newborns who need caesarian section.

International guidelines indicate at least 5% of births should be done via caesarian section (c-section) to preserve the life of the mother and/or infant. This is actually the most common operation done globally. Over the past two decades the availability of this life saving care in Africa including Tigray had dramatically reduced maternal and infant mortality. Still in Ethiopia as a whole the rates were in many regions less than 1% although Tigray was a little better at 2%. This indicated that this important service was insufficient to meet the needs.

Prior to November 2020 hundreds of c-sections were performed at Ayder Hospital yearly, the main tertiary teaching hospital in Tigray. This institution was also in the vanguard performing research and training nurses, midwives, physicians, and obstetrician gynecologists with an experienced faculty.

Following the invasion of Tigray by Ethiopian and Eritrean forces in November 2020 a progressive restriction of pre-natal,  birth, and post-natal care was placed upon Tigray by the Ethiopian government. For a year prior to the conflict budgets for health care coming from the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Women and Children, and the Ministry of Education (the tertiary hospital, Ayder in Mekelle, was a federal facility under MOE) began to be cut instead of receiving the usual 13% increase.

Dr Kahsay Gebremedhin at Ayder Hospital in Mekelle reported in June 2021 that although normally the hospital was performing about 500 deliveries for month it had increased to 700. Even with transportation problems patients were coming to Ayder because out of the 8 major hospitals in Tigray only Ayder was not totally ransacked and rendered unusable by invading Ethiopian and Eritrean forces. Additionally it was the only one with a working generator. Fuel embargoes have severely limited surgical services because the power blockade means generators are the only way to get power for surgical equipment like anesthesia machines, lights, and cautery units.

The exact number of births in Tigray now is unknown however it is estimated that about 30 births per 1000 population occur per year. This means that somewhere near 150,000 occur annually in Tigray. Using the 5% standard one could reasonable estimate that upwards of 7,500 c-sections would need to be done to fully protect maternal and newborn lives. This implies that thousands of mother’s and children’s lives will be lost.

 

Ethiopia National Bank foreign currency control reduces real spending for human needs

The National Bank of Ethiopia decides when and if any government payment or even private entity payment to a foreign supplier. Foreign currency payments can only occur with its approval.

While the Ethiopian government touts big increases in spending for things like agriculture, education, health care the reality is that this is a farce. Real spending is actually much lower due the hidden way approval for expenditures which require foreign currency payments are tightly controlled by the Ethiopian National Bank under the control of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. As an advisor to Mekelle University and other institutions on development I became familiar with how this two level process of approval works in reality. Only budget items that match the monthly priority list and when there is a relative surplus of foreign currency will ever be approved.

Whatever budget the Ethiopian Parliament in agreement with Abiy Ahmed agrees for spending the amount that is actually spent that year will be less. The National Bank sets priorities for which budget item foreign currency will be allowed to leave the country. Needless to say no foreign debtor will accept the birr. The greatest contributor of foreign currency inward to Ethiopia is Ethiopian Airlines and therefore they and the military are always first on the list.

With expenditures of $2 billion per annum in military weapons and costs related to fighting in Tigray, Oromia, and other places while loan allotments from international lenders have been reduced to 1/6 of what they were in 2019 this military cost is actually higher then the rest of the Ethiopian budget combined. The debt burden of the Ethiopian government is well above 30% of the gross domestic product such that it always is on the border of default in loan payments. To date this has resulted in dramatic reduction in loan distributions complicated also by Abiy Ahmed’s avoiding recommendations by foreign lenders or even to meet them.

Additionally although the Ethiopian government uses figures of birr , the Ethiopian currency, instead of international currency equivalents, the greater then 50% de-evaluation hides that real spending has not increased.

Even if the Ministry of Health, for example, approves budgets to buy reagents for lab tests or new diagnostic equipment as these things come from foreign producers requiring foreign currency payments their actual approval for payment for that year often never happens. 

Ethiopian blockade of medicine will cause African pandemics beyond deadly Tigray epidemics

Hemen Hagos, 1.5 months old Ethiopian child admitted with pertussis, also known as whooping cough, receives care at a hospital in Mekelle, the capital of Tigray region, Ethiopia September 9, 2022. REUTERS/Stringer

The Tigray siege of medical supplies by Ethiopia is causing deadly outbreaks of disease in children, adults, and domestic animals which will likely spread beyond Tigray borders into the whole Horn of Africa and beyond. Large migrations of displaced persons across the borders of Tigray to Sudan, Amhara, and Afar region continue as Ethiopia continues to attempt a military victory rather then peaceful end to the war.

As occurred during the initial invasion and occupation of the whole of Tigray many invading soldiers from Ethiopia who we know were known by the commanders of the Ethiopian forces to be HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) positive infected many Tegaru women and girls in their violations of civilians. Additionally in many cities and villages these forces sabotaged water supplies leaving the civilian population with no supply of potable water. The lack of electricity has not allowed the restoration of this clean water. The Ethiopian blockade has blocked the treatment of HIV which is allowing the HIV infections to progress to a full blown AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) which eventually results in disability and death. Children born of these untreated rape victims also usually become infected.

Children are more vulnerable to cholera then adults. The lack of antibiotics and intravenous hydration means those who ordinarily could be saved are dying.

Despite claims proven false of directing immunizations to Tigray by Ethiopian Minister of Health,Lia Tadesse, none have reached Tigray for many months. Following November 2020 only very limited immunizations insufficient to vaccinate a significant population were allowed. The United Nations, World Food Program, and other aid organizations have repeatedly been blocked from sending medical supplies to fight tuberculosis, malaria, HIV, water borne bacterial disease such as cholera, and immunizations for children. All their shipments either by plane and truck had to be approved by the Ethiopian government.

Subsequently doctors with Ayder Hospital in Mekelle and the Tigray Regional Health Bureau report that less than 10% of children are immunized against potentially disabling or deadly viral and bacterial diseases while before the Tigray invasion by Ethiopia and Eritrea the rates of immunization were approaching 90%.

There are no supplies to diagnose or treat deadly infections which affect not only food supplies but can also spread from animals to humans. Outbreaks of rabies and anthrax are rapidly increasing. Desperate for food doctors report some human deaths from consuming infected animals. 

Ethiopian economist says Ethiopian war crashing economy like a car without brakes

Luxury cars like a recent late model Mercedes Benz on sale on the Ezega internet site are selling at record prices of millions of birr.

The Addis Ababa newspaper, The Reporter, this week discussed an unusual paradox being seen in the collapsing Ethiopian economy due to the rapid birr devaluation and instability due to the ongoing war.  Simply put the wealthy are grabbing up high value assets while the poor and middle class are struggling just to meet daily needs. Amin Abdella (PhD) long time researcher as well as sectorial director at the Ethiopian Economics Association described how those with access to wealth in the form of foreign currency are buying up cars, buildings, real estate to liquidate their birr. He called it a “property craze”. This may explain why many wealthy Amhara in the country still support Abiy Ahmed as they are partaking of this temporary bonanza and do not yet comprehend it cannot last. The failure of the Ethiopian government under Abiy Ahmed to seek peace is continuing to devastate poor and middle income families..

Whilst the cost of living has reached record increases approaching 50% for many needs of daily living over the past two years causing the poor and middle class to struggle in paying rents, buying foods, fuel for their vehicles, and other essentials. Meanwhile the wealthy who have foreign currency assets are buying up real estate, cars, and other assets to the extent that it is driving inflation even higher. This abandonment of the birr is making the economy even worse. Even if the war stops today it will take years to recover the economy.

To make things worse, experts say investors’ disinterest in keeping their money in birr is already wreaking havoc on the whole economy.

“The price bubble does not stop at property. It has a domino effect on other services and goods,” … “The economy is in its worst shape and is now like a car that has lost its brakes.”

A tribute to the Tigray- Who they really are!

Tigray Defense Force returns to the capital, Mekelle, when many thought they were defeated.

I have watched many Ethiopians and Eritreans belittle and diminish the Tegaru people of Tigray as they have suffered through a gauntlet of pain, deprivation, violation, and isolation. Having been a physician, teacher, and researcher who lived with them for years I must denounce these fallacies. When tested beyond a tolerance which would break the reed instead they have bended and rebounded like a spring that has been compressed. Faith in God, tradition in valuing community over self, and a living memory of generations of struggle has tempered them as individuals as well as a society into a resilient and adaptive culture which has lasted thousands of years.

Though fierce and clever in battle when the threat has been extinguished an out pouring of mercy and kindness consistently emerges. They do not  dream of conquest but instead put the preservation of their neighbors and family as the priority. Following Abiy Ahmed’s coming to power they accepted the new era with the initial promise that it offered to them no threat. Little did the world know that a secret sinister plot contrived by Amharic expansionists allied with the Isaias Afeworki’s lust for power would surface like weeds in the garden of what was a developing modern nation of Ethiopia.

During the occupation of Mekelle I witnessed countless acts of charity including Tigray mothers giving food and blankets to enemy soldiers in hospital. Towns folk offering me enjera, cash, and water even when they had little for themselves or their families. Unarmed men walking Tigray women to protect them from invading predatory soldiers. The forming of a wall of unarmed citizens, Muslim, Orthodox,  and Catholic to protect their hospital, Ayder, against ravaging Eritreans which cost the lives of young men shot in the street without warning.

The Ethiopian constitution clearly states that regional states have the right to their own security forces and the right to autonomous rule. A Tigray election despised by Abiy Ahmed because he knew what would be the result rightfully reached. 

Do not call them rebels. They have paid the price many times to fight just to survive. The rebels were the Amharic expansionists and Eritreans.

 

We pray Ethiopia commit to a just peace now

The war on Tigray by Ethiopia and Eritrea cannot be justified. The human, moral, material, and financial costs out way any benefit of a futile attempt at Ethiopian dominance. Photo source DW

The war on Tigray by Ethiopia and Eritrea cannot be justified. The human, moral, material, and financial costs out way any benefit of a futile attempt at Ethiopian dominance.  The Ethiopian leadership would be wise to review the advice of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke 14 where Jesus tells the story of how a wise king should consider the cost of negotiation for peace versus war. Ethiopia must see the time for peace is now. The Tigray fight just to survive and prevent more horrible suffering seen during occupation and Ethiopia’s desire to establish dominance has yielded a high cost of human suffering. There can be no peace without absolute security of the people of Tigray to be free to self determine their future and have the means to defend that right. In this world history has shown that human rights violations eventually come to light. Ethiopian contrition and renewal to real democratic reform will hasten it’s return to respectability.

 Ethiopia’s reputation has plummeted to that paralleling North Korea and Eritrea resulting in economic sanctions from Western democracies. Turning alliance to China and Russia who base their foreign policy on favorable transactions to themselves which usually involves exploitation is shaky because they also see a region in turmoil with withering economic potential and stability. One cannot see how any Ethiopian can imagine that the alliance with Eritrea has benefited them. For who in Ethiopia is life now better then it was in 2018 when Abiy Ahmed came to power.?

The Tigray, Ethiopian-Eritrean conflict since November 2020 has come at great cost of Ethiopia, Tigray, and even Eritrea. Prior to the war the Ethiopian economy was growing with a stabilizing currency. There were dreams of becoming a middle class country within a generation. Yet today the economy has shrunken significantly with international lenders severely cutting loans. The total government debt exceeds $60 billion and rising due to inflation and weapons purchases. Meanwhile millions are displaced by war, drought, and insufficient food production.  More so of course in Tigray but still growing throughout the whole of Ethiopia.

Eritrea faces more sanctions and isolation. The false veil of friendly support for Amhara expansion has been removed revealing a dark ambition to control the whole of the Horn of Africa. 

The concept of creating textile and clothing manufacturing in Ethiopia by international companies has likely been dealt a permanent blow because a reassessment has revealed that the greater stability of Western Africa combined with the high cotton production there may make relocation favorable. 

Tigray has seen more than 500,000 people die from war, lack of health care, lack of food, power, and transportation. Infant and maternal mortality are sky rocketing.  Even in Ethiopia health expenditures have plummeted from a high of $23 per capita to perhaps less than $10 per capita. The high cost of necessary imports such as medical supplies versus the falling birr has reduced the quality of life and life expectancy for all but the minority of elites.

If Ethiopia wants to regain the reputation of respect and once again pursue a higher standard of living for its people peace is the only war forward. It is the only path to righteousness.

For Tigray a prayer for deliverance in the new year, Psalm 35

The traditional New Year in Tigray is upon them.  Tigrayans faith is a way of life and a source of strength during crisis.

Hundred of Tigrayan worshipers killed by Eritrean soldiers invited to invade Tigray by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in November 2020, alleges deacon at the Church of St. Mary of Zion, which Ethiopian Orthodox believe hosts the Ark of the Covenant. Source Christianity Today

The people of Tigray trace their heritage to a joining of the ancient Saba culture of the Levant lead by Queen Sheba to the Israeli kingdom of Solomon.  Today Tigray is mostly Ethiopian Orthodox which was born in Axum with minority Catholic  and Muslims. All whom share in recognizing the Psalm written by David as holy.

When Saul had not followed God’s commands and David was chosen  to be the next leader of the Israelites David it is traditionally held wrote this prayer, Psalm 35, to God when Saul was pursuing his capture and death.

Here its in Amharic and English. Dear Lord we pray:

 አቤቱ፥ የሚበድሉኝን በድላቸው፥ የሚዋጉኝንም ተዋጋቸው። 1 Plead my cause, O Lord, with them that strive with me: fight against them that fight against me.
ጥሩርና ጋሻ ያዝ፥ እኔንም ለመርዳት ተነሥ። 2 Take hold of shield and buckler, and stand up for mine help.
ሰይፍህን ምዘዝ የሚያሳድዱኝንም መንገዳቸውን ዝጋ ነፍሴን፦ መድኃኒትሽ እኔ ነኝ በላት። 3 Draw out also the spear, and stop the way against them that persecute me: say unto my soul, I am thy salvation.
ነፍሴን የሚሹ ሁሉ ይፈሩ ይጐስቈሉም ክፉትን በእኔ ላይ የሚያስቡ ይፈሩ ወደ ኋላቸውም ይበሉ። 4 Let them be confounded and put to shame that seek after my soul: let them be turned back and brought to confusion that devise my hurt.
በነፋስ ፊት እንዳለ ትቢያ ይሁኑ፥ የእግዚአብሔርንም መልአክ ያስጨንቃቸው። 5 Let them be as chaff before the wind: and let the angel of the Lord chase them.
 መንገዳቸው ዳጥና ጨለማ ይሁን፥ የእግዚአብሔርም መልአክ ያሳድዳቸው። 6 Let their way be dark and slippery: and let the angel of the Lord persecute them.
በከንቱ ያጠፉኝ ዘንድ ወጥመዳቸውን ሸሽገውብኛልና፥ ነፍሴን በከንቱ አበሳጭተዋልና። 7 For without cause have they hid for me their net in a pit, which without cause they have digged for my soul.
ያላወቁት ወጥመድ ይምጣባቸው፥ የሸሸጉትም ወጥመድ ይያዛቸው በዚህ ወጥመድ ውስጥ ይውደቁ። 8 Let destruction come upon him at unawares; and let his net that he hath hid catch himself: into that very destruction let him fall.
ነፍሴ ግን በእግዚአብሔር ደስ ይላታል፥ በማዳኑም ሐሴት ታደርጋለች። 9 And my soul shall be joyful in the Lord: it shall rejoice in his salvation.
አጥንቶቼ ሁሉ እንዲህ ይሉሃል። አቤቱ፥ እንደ አንተ ማን ነው? ችግረኛን ከሚቀማው እጅ፥ ችግረኛንና ድሀውንም ከሚነጥቀው እጅ ታድነዋለህ። 10 All my bones shall say, Lord, who is like unto thee, which deliverest the poor from him that is too strong for him, yea, the poor and the needy from him that spoileth him?
የክፋት ምስክሮች ተነሡብኝ፥ የማላውቀውንም በእኔ ላይ ተናገሩ። 11 False witnesses did rise up; they laid to my charge things that I knew not.
ስለ በጎ ክፋትን መለሱልኝ፥ ነፍሴንም ልጆችን አሳጡአት። 12 They rewarded me evil for good to the spoiling of my soul.
 እኔስ እነርሱ በታመሙ ጊዜ ማቅ ለበስሁ፥ ነፍሴንም በጾም አደከምኋት ጸሎቴም ወደ ብብቴ ተመለሰ። 13 But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth: I humbled my soul with fasting; and my prayer returned into mine own bosom.
ለወዳጄና ለወንድሜ እንደማደርግ አደረግሁ ለእናቱም እንደሚያለቅስ ራሴን ዝቅ ዝቅ አደረግሁ። 14 I behaved myself as though he had been my friend or brother: I bowed down heavily, as one that mourneth for his mother.
በእኔ ላይ ተሰበሰቡ ደስም አላቸው ግፈኞች በእኔ ላይ ተሰበሰቡ እኔም አላውቅሁም ቀደዱኝ አልተውኝምም። 15 But in mine adversity they rejoiced, and gathered themselves together: yea, the abjects gathered themselves together against me, and I knew it not; they did tear me, and ceased not:
ፈተኑኝ በሣቅም ዘበቱብኝ፥ ጥርሳቸውንም በእኔ ላይ አንቀጫቅጩ። 16 With hypocritical mockers in feasts, they gnashed upon me with their teeth.
አቤቱ፥ እስከ መቼ ድረስ ታይልኛለህ? ነፍሴን ከክፉ ሥራቸው ብችነቴንም ከአንበሶች አድናት። 17 Lord, how long wilt thou look on? rescue my soul from their destructions, my darling from the lions.
አቤቱ፥ በታላቁ ጉባኤ ውስጥ እገዛልሃለሁ፥ በብዙ ሕዝብ መካከልም አመሰግንሃለሁ። 18 I will give thee thanks in the great congregation: I will praise thee among much people.
በግፍ የሚጠሉኝ በላዬ ደስ አይበላቸው፥ በከንቱ የሚጣሉኝም በዓይናቸው አይጣቀሱብኝ። 19 Let not them that are mine enemies wrongfully rejoice over me: neither let them wink with the eye that hate me without a cause.
ለእኔስ ሰላምን ይናገሩኛልና፥ በቍጣም ሽንገላን ይመክራሉ። 20 For they speak not peace: but they devise deceitful matters against them that are quiet in the land.
 አፋቸውንም በእኔ ላይ አላቀቁ እሰይ እሰይ፥ ዓይናችን አየው ይላሉ። 21 Yea, they opened their mouth wide against me, and said, Aha, aha, our eye hath seen it.
 አቤቱ፥ አንተ አየኸው ዝም አትበል አቤቱ፥ ከእኔ አትራቅ። 22 This thou hast seen, O Lord: keep not silence: O Lord, be not far from me.
አምላኬ ጌታዬም፥ ወደ ፍርዴ ተነሥ፥ አቤቱ፥ ፍርዴን አድምጥ። 23 Stir up thyself, and awake to my judgment, even unto my cause, my God and my Lord.
አቤቱ አምላኬ፥ እንደ ጽድቅህ ፍረድልኝ፥ በላዬም ደስ አይበላቸው። 24 Judge me, O Lord my God, according to thy righteousness; and let them not rejoice over me.
በልባቸው። እሰይ እሰይ፥ ነፍሳችንን ደስ አላት አይበሉ ደግሞም፦ ዋጥነው አይበሉ። 25 Let them not say in their hearts, Ah, so would we have it: let them not say, We have swallowed him up.
በመከራዬ ደስ የሚላቸው ይፈሩ፥ በአንድነትም ይጐስቍሉ በእኔ ላይ የሚታበዩ እፍረትንና ጕስቍልናን ይልበሱ። 26 Let them be ashamed and brought to confusion together that rejoice at mine hurt: let them be clothed with shame and dishonour that magnify themselves against me.
ጽድቄን የሚወድዱአት ደስ ይበላቸው ሐሴትንም ያድርጉ የባሪያውን ሰላም የሚወድድ እግዚአብሔር ታላቅ ይሁን ዘወትር ይበሉ። 27 Let them shout for joy, and be glad, that favour my righteous cause: yea, let them say continually, Let the Lord be magnified, which hath pleasure in the prosperity of his servant.
 ምላሴ ጽድቅህን ሁልጊዜም ምስጋናህን ይናገራል። 28 And my tongue shall speak of thy righteousness and of thy praise all the day long.

Amen.

The genesis of false claims about TDF drug use by misinformation axis revealed

Mereja.com, a supporter of Abiy Ahmed and Amharic centric ideology, printed a fake scientific study purporting to show Tigray Defense fighters use drugs and suffer terrible addictions.

There exists a vast misinformation propaganda mechanism of the Ethiopian-Eritrean-Diaspora axis involved in the current conflicts of Ethiopia, Tigray, and Oromia. In July 2021 there was an abrupt change in the fortune of war when the occupying Ethiopian forces had to make a hasty retreat from Mekelle and eastern Tigray. Abiy Ahmed’s explanation was that he wanted to give Tigrayan farmers a chance to plant crops even though Abiy Ahmed’s own appointed Tigray Interim Government revealed to France 24 that planting and farming were actually blocked. 

It was during this retreat that two excuses began to circulate in social media associated with support of Abiy Ahmed and Amharic centric thinking in support of the war on Tigray. We know that Facebook and Twitter have large populations of autobots created to look like real persons who run on algorithims. These are triggered by statements of the Ethiopia-Eritrean-Diaspora axis of misinformation. 

Claims began that Tigray was defeating the invading forces of the Ethiopian National Defense Force, Eritrea, and mercenaries from Somali by using youth waves that were drugged. As a young man in the United States Army and a student of history a Texas A&M University we learned that well trained and coordinated infantry is what it takes to take and hold ground. Fire, move, cover are the key elements to infantry movement which must be choreographed exactly to match terrain, environment, enemy capabilities and responses. What you see in the Tigray are officers and non-commissioned officers who just a few decades ago fought well equipped larger forces backed by Russia in the same areas they are in combat today. They are well disciplined and well trained. 

Recently Abreham Belay, the so called Tigrayan Defense Minister for Ethiopia ( he is really of Shabia ancestry not Tegaru) had re-circulated that Tigrayan youth Tigray Defense Force prisoners where being drugged in their tea. Well a investigation has revealed where this fake news likely was launched. Looking back to July 2021 Mereja.com published a formal appearing post that looked like a scientific study with Western authors under the title, Tigray Culture of Drug Use in Battle and Devastating Addiction of Tigray YouthHowever when you actually read the article it is a review of the history of drug use by soldiers in various wars. There is no information presented about Ethiopia or Tigray. 

As I previously wrote, while the stimulant Khat is not grown or used by the Tigray, it is the second largest export of Ethiopia. In the Amhara and southern regions you can vendors in every street corner. It is also common knowledge that soldiers in Ethiopian National Defense Force in addition to their few hundred birr salary generally receive a guaranteed beer ration on a weekly basis.

Mereja.com claims to be the largest online Ethiopian journal and is based in Washington,DC . According to Apollo Services it has two employees, Elias Kifle and Habtamo Oda and has many visiting writers. Prior to Abiy Ahmed coming to power in 2018 it was frequently blocked from the internet in Ethiopia. 

 

Tigray head doctors describe worsening medical care catastrophe in emergency briefing

In an international zoom briefing Doctors Amanuel Haile and Kibrom Gebreselassie gave a detailed briefing on the deteriorating medical crisis in Tigray caused by the Ethiopian siege which impedes all aspects of health care. Ethiopian diaspora along with others are working to establish means of sending financial support as well as organize and carry out shipments to Tigray and to refugee centers in Sudan. Donations are encouraged to this link https://givebutter.com/xWtpbD

In an emergency international zoom conference today Drs.  Amanuel Haile, Tigray Health Bureau Director,and Kibrom Gebreselassie, CEO of Mekelle’s Ayder Hospital, the continuing catastrophic health care crisis in the Tigray region suffered under the Ethiopian siege was reported.

Less then fifty percent of health care facilities have any staffing at all. Even those that are open have no electricity or supplies. There are no antibiotics to treat infection, no surgical supplies, and even simple things such as bed sheets and soap are scarce. No electricity is present to run medical equipment except for occasional runs at the tertiary Ayder Hospital on a rare basis.

During the so called truce following the exit of occupying forces of Ethiopia from Eastern Tigray but not Western Tigray there has been a strangulating blockade of food, medicine, and fuel. Only 5% of necessary medical supplies were coming through the blockade. The Ethiopian military as well as the Ethiopian Ministry of Health under Lia Tadesse continue to limit what will be cleared for transport into Tigray from Ethiopia so that the people of Tigray would be “punished”.

Immunizations for children, oxytocin to help in childbirth, HIV testing, antibiotics, cancer drugs, tuberculosis drugs, anti-malarials, oxygen and surgical equipment are a few of the many banned items. Even while Ethiopia claimed to be assisting in medical supply the reality is that not a single item was donated by Ethiopia itself.  Only donated supplies from foreign countries in miniscule quantities are transported.

The medical crisis extends beyond just humans as there have been outbreaks of rabies in some cities from infected dogs spreading to humans. Feed for livestock is sparse and many animals have become infected with anthrax which has spread to humans as sick animals are desperately consumed.

While fifty thousand health care workers have attempted to remain on station to help the population they have gone unpaid essentially since  November 2020. There is no fuel or parts to allow transportation of patients to health care facilities. 

 

Ethiopia claim Tigray youth fighters drugged while ENDF using Khat

 
Ethiopian Defense Minister claims Tigray youth fighters are drugged.

Examination of the claims by Ethiopian Defense Minister Abreham Belay that Tigray youth fighters captured were given drugs is a bizarre and hypocritical statement. He no doubt is aware that there is a potent stimulant, Khat, commonly used in the Amhara, Oromo, and southern areas of Ethiopia which is not common in Tigray. It seems he wants to claim the Tigray forces are just youths coming in undisciplined waves often defeating superior numbered Ethiopian forces which have “superior weaponry and training”. So he came up with the idea that the Tigray have magic drugs that turn this innocent youth into supermen. There is a great irony in that there is high if not certain likelihood that his own fighters which often include youth are likely using Khat to greater extent then the Tigray. Not only do the Tigray culturally not favor its use but the availability of Khat would be almost impossible. It does not grow in Tigray and is perishable within a short time. The Tigray siege would make it difficult to import in great quantities.

Khat leaves containing a strong amphetamine like stimulant are the second greatest export of Ethiopia. They are not cultivated in Tigray. Here is shown a typical Amhara plantation.

The second largest export of Ethiopia are leaves of the plant, Khat (Catha Edulis)which contains the amphetamine-like substances cathine, cathinone, and methcathinone. Traditionally it is chewed slowly for hours to increase alertness, improve the mood, and increase mental focus. Its use is very common throughout much of Africa and the Arab regions. Public health studies have shown its greatest use in the the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region, Oromia, and Amhara regions of Ethiopia. 

When I lived in the Amhara region one could find a Khat vendor on almost every block of a town whereas in Tigray the cultural use of Khat has been much less accepting.  Often times taxi drivers, security guards, young men college students, policemen, and soldiers in the regions mentioned in the areas above partake of Khat as documented in public health research. There is little research on its effects on physical activity although in Olympic competition it is banned as happened to a Kenyan boxer in 2004.

Although in these regions the popularity of Khat use is high little is known about any deleterious effects. Some clinicians involved in stroke care like myself have wondered whether it creates a greater risk of hemorrhagic stroke but to date no definitive evidence has been demonstrated.

Finally, Ethiopia has very poor resources for drug testing. I cannot believe that the Ethiopian Defense Forces is drawing blood, urine, and hair samples from its prisoners and sending them to foreign countries for testing which is what would be required.