Ethiopian blockade of antibiotics is killing children in Tigray

A young child with his mother visits a clinic in Southern Tigray which now have no supplies of medication or intravenous hydration

For young children in Tigray the availability of health care facilities and safe transport to them, intravenous hydration, and antibiotics for treatment can make all the difference whether a child lives or dies from infection which was the leading cause of death for those under age of 5 even before the Ethiopia Tigray conflict. This adds to many children already dying everyday from starvation.

This week health officials in Addis Ababa are celebrating improved use of antibiotics in Ethiopia but remain silent on the fact that for almost a year there has been no supply of antibiotics to save the lives of innocent children in Tigray. It seems they feel no responsibility to the welfare of children in Tigray. Given the Ethiopian blockade and the resistance of international authorities to challenge the humanitarian catastrophe in Tigray it is reliably expectant without a doubt that many times more children are dying.

The leading cause of death of children in Ethiopia under age 5  has been well established to be infectious disease. A study  looking at demographic data and disease statistics in 2019 before the Ethiopian Tigray conflicted indicated that male children, 0–11 months aged children, 12–23 months aged children, anemic children, husband with a lower education, mothers paid employment, non-breastfed children, regions of Amhara, Afar, Dire Dawa, Benishangul, Gambela, Oromia, SNNPR, Somali and Tigray were significantly associated with higher odds of morbidity in Ethiopia.

The general effects of the war contribute further to the medical crisis. Lack of fuel for public means of transportation means that for the mostly rural population of Tigray there is no way to seek medical consultation.

Severe budget cuts due to the need for war spending more than doubling the Ethiopian government budget has now resulted in medical supply shortages throughout Ethiopia not just Tigray. Even in discussions I had recently with some in the SNNP this is a growing situation. So it is likely death rates for young children from infection are increasing nationwide now not just in Tigray.

Author: Professor Tony Magana

Professor Tony Magana is Head of the Department of Neurosurgery, School of Medicine, College of Health Sciences at Mekelle University in Mekelle, Ethiopia. He directs a neurosurgery residency and training program as well as neuroscience research.

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