WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom has an undeniable record of accomplishment

In 2019 when the Ebola crisis in central Africa in a region undergoing civil war Tedros Ahanom was instrumental in helping form an effective international response limiting the spread of the deadly virus as well commencing research efforts. Source Nature

World leaders and analysts have complemented the work of  Dr. Tedros Adhanom Gebreyesus who was elected for another term as Director-General of the World Health Organization. These complements are not just limited to his recent work but began almost twenty years ago beginning with his appointment to the Ethiopian Ministry of Health and continuing during his subsequent office of Minister of Foreign Affairs.  Complaints by malcontents at the current Ethiopian government of covert actions have never been proven. At the same time Dr. Tedros Adhanom Gebreyesus has fully cooperated with international NGOs and the UN to send aid to Amhara, Afar, and other regions of Ethiopia while the Ethiopian government blocked similar aid to Tigray.  I was fortunate to share a table with him at an African Union summit on health care development about 8 years ago. He is articulate and driven by a higher sense of duty not just to Tigray, Ethiopia, or Africa but to mankind.

The expansion of Ethiopia’s health care system commenced in 2004,  when over 30 000 Health Extension Workers were trained and deployed in Ethiopia and over 2500 health centers and 15 000 village-level health posts were constructed. Some analysts have attributed Ethiopia’s successful reforms a to strong leadership and “political will”. However an academic study of these reforms by Kevin Croke from the Harvard Department of Global Health and Population at the T.H. Chan School of Public Health determined that the reality was there was more to the story then will. This analysis was published in December 2020 in Health Policy and Planning. The focus on rural development and stressing the primacy of development as well building alliances among different regions as developed by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and Tedros Adhanom Gebreyesus is what drove the success in reform. The WHO Director-General has been tested with the Ebola crisis, COVID 19, immunizations, global health inequity, and other issues yet he has stayed on course. 

Today the Ministry of Health has been mostly Addis Ababa centric. The level of spending per capita for health care has gone down from $23 to $18. Even though Tigray is claimed to be a part of Ethiopia no expenditure is currently directed there for any government activity including health care. What aid that comes issues from the World Health Organization, International Red Cross, and other international sources.

After becoming Foreign Minister in 2005 where he served until 2012 he expanded his advocacy for health care development in underdeveloped nations not just in Ethiopia. He joined in international efforts to deal with malaria, tuberculosis, HIV-AIDS setting in motion movements to control these maladies with good results. To some extent this  has followed a general trend in public health among academics to place health care front and center in political considerations for funding and priority.

Dr. Tedros as he is known in Tigray where use of first names is matter of custom was unanimously elected again because of his history of accomplishments recognized by health authorities and elected leaders except for Ethiopia who judges him wrongly because he is Tigrayan.

Our neighborhood is the world which we are obligated to serve

Jacopo Bassano
The Good Samaritan
about 1562-3
Oil on canvas, 102.1 x 79.7 cm
Bought, 1856
NG277
https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/NG277

For the Good Samaritan the world he knew was just in his sight of what he saw on the road he traveled. But today we have world wide almost instant communication to know not just our neighborhood or country but of the whole world. We cannot claim ignorance. Today thanks to modern science and engineering we can see the plight of others throughout the globe.

During the past month I have been reflecting upon how good life is for most Americans compared with many third world countries. It has been a difficult month for me. A few weeks ago a prostate biopsy was done after routine blood test showed my PSA blood level was elevated. I was diagnosed with an intermediate level cancer for which I subsequently underwent a high tech robotic assisted surgery by an experienced surgeon and his team. Imaging and pathology now show that I have better then 90% chance of being cured. All the while even just before I was anesthetized for surgery I prayed for Tigray. Even while in the hospital I could not take my mind off of the Tigray siege and ongoing hostilities in Ethiopia as well as Ukraine. After having lived in Ethiopia and then Tigray since 2012 until January 2021 it still feels very much like my home town as does the USA. 

I have actively studied religion and theology for the past twenty some years. One of the concepts that arose from studying Anglican concepts is personal versus collective salvation. There is no doubt that God created all mankind to be interdependent one on the other. The parable of the Good Samaritan where upon the protagonist helps a stranger in distress is a clear example of loving your neighbor. I am convinced we cannot reach a personal state of piety for Christianity by giving a blind eye to the plights of others.  When Jesus talks about the difficult of the wealthy to go to heaven for me he is clearly stating that we are called to do more with our lives than just to attend to our own needs or even just those of our immediate family and friends. The more freedom and capacity we have to act for others comes with a responsibility to act faithfully to our commitment to Christ.

Now that the modern medical science of America has with God’s grace given me a chance to live and be productive more than ever I hope to someday return to Tigray when the situation arises where we can continue the work of developing the university and health care capacities.

 

My Christmas Thought for Tigray and Ethiopia

A 500 year old iconic artwork showing Mary with the infant Jesus from what was once the Abyssinian empire where we what call Tigray is today

A little more than 2000 years ago a man was born into the Middle East not far from what is Tigray today. He came from an ancient tradition stemming from a covenant made between God and Abraham that would lead to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. This shared heritage saw human beings as being created in the image of God, with each having a life with dignity and value, and that the affairs of man should be done in accordance with the commandments of God given to the prophet Moses.

The world Jesus was born into was corrupt and morally lost. The ruler of Jerusalem was a half-Jew who had made an unholy alliance with the Roman Empire to seal his complete power over his domain rejecting the Jewish faith.  A seemingly unquenchable bloodthirst compelled him to kill many of his subjects and even his own wife and her family who came from a ancient rabbinical lineage. When this ruler named Herod heard that a Messiah was born his fear of losing power became so enraged he killed every male child born in the kingdom in a cruel mockery of the Passover story.

Today is the second celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ in the West (while in Ethiopia this will occur in a few weeks) since then the people of Tigray have been under siege, depravity, violation, starvation, isolation, and risk of violent death without end.  I appreciate what God’s grace has given me and my family and am grateful yet everyday my heart sorrows for the suffering of the Tigray people.

As a researcher and physician I have cared for and interacted with thousands of families in distress traveling through much of Tigray. Most of them live a very simple hard life working everyday to have minimal water, food, and shelter which most of the world takes for granted.  Yet they unwaveringly hold their faith in God even in the midst of genocide. Their life is not much different then that into which Jesus was born.

Today the power that brought this suffering to these children of God lies with group of clerico-fascists who have twisted ancient words of wisdom to their own selfish ends like the Sanhedrin that questioned Jesus. They uphold a  ruler who played in a park while his people fought locusts destroying their crops. Whilst children and elderly die from agonizing hunger  he denies them any food. Who forbids any communication between families who for more than year have been in darkness. Who brings death from the sky randomly targeting innocent souls.

Under the leadership of this dark leader, Abiy Ahmed and his associates, Tigray has suffered like the kingdom of Jerusalem did under Herod. I pray that the Holy Spirit will somehow find its way into the dark hearts causing so much misery. Jesus Christ, the son of God, told us that love between the brothers and sisters of God’s creation is the only way to salvation.

Amen

A positive Mexican-American reflection on American Thanksgiving

Turkey tamales are one innovation Mexican-Americans have added to American Thanksgiving meals which represent a time of bringing families together

As a Mexican-American child growing up in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas I remember celebrating the American holiday, Thanksgiving, as a day which seeked to convey a utopian image of the founding of America between native peoples and foreign immigrants. This remembrance has come under controversy with the emergence of a bitter feud between advocates that it should be a day of shame of European conquest and defenders who note it was and is a symbol of the ideal of what America is striving to be. That although not yet perfect America has made considerable progress to that promised by its inception.

Just before Thanksgiving a year ago I was a part of Mekelle University medical faculty teaching medical students, providing healthcare, and promoting research to improve the lives of Tigrayans as well as their fellow Ethiopians. Unfortunately today I find myself displaced by a horrible war that has killed, starved, deprived, and rendered hopeless tens of thousands of people in Ethiopia. Everyday of the war reminds me they have not yet reached the state of progress we have struggled for in America. We versus they thinking has poisoned their society. They need to be exterminated mentality has ruined a country.

I am currently reading Thaddeus William’s Confronting Injustice without Compromising Truth: 12 Questions Christians Should Ask About Social Justice which has helped me to come to terms with how I view Thanksgiving.

First we have to recognize that all men are created by God in his image. All of us are potential sinners and potentially repentant members of the human family. Neither the native American society nor the Europeans were without sin yet they judged each other as “they” not “we”. Today this lack of seeing others like ourselves deteriorates into volatility and then violence. This has been sin of man since history has been recorded.

As a Mexican-American we honor our native and European roots. They are our mother and father. To hate one and love the other only recognizes half of our whole. The American expansion to the southwestern continental region of North American engulfed our traditional lands which beforehand had been taken from our native ancestors by Europeans.

Today we are a part of a great country, the United States of America, to which we have contributed much including building its infrastructure, harvesting its food, blending into and adding to its culture,  as well as defending its liberty from foreign threats. We cannot change history but we can learn from it. Our identity now is we are an essential part of the American dream and it is an integral part of our culture. Today I can celebrate Thanksgiving because although there was a flawed past there is a  future with  promise. I thank God for his creation of us all.

Taking Mille can save lives for the Tigray while holding Mille allows more killing for Ethiopia

The government of Ethiopia has blocked all food and medical aid to Tigray

Why Ethiopia and Eritrea want to hold Mille and why TDF (Tigray Defense Force) and the OLA (Oromo Liberation Army) wants to gain control of it tells the truth about the real motivations for the ongoing conflict. In the absence of any international attempt to save the millions of Tigrayans from starvation, death from lack of health care, imprisonment for ethnicity, and even just the simple right to make a living the TDF and OLA have no choice but to seize control of the roads connecting ultimately to the seaport of Djibouti. This will allow a high flow of food, medicines, medical supplies, and fuel to Tigray and the Oromo regions. Meanwhile the Ethiopian Eritrean forces want to continue to starve, deprive, imprison, and kill Tigrayans as Abiy Ahmed as well as his supporters put it into an oblivion of dust as if they never existed.

Despite the fact that the Bible and Quran outlaw the use of starvation as a weapons the clerico-fascists of Abiy Ahmed persistent and loudening claims that God has specifically given him the right to use any means necessary to exterminate the Tigray people and subjugate the Oromo similarly continue unabated.  Numerous persons and entities supporting Abiy Ahmed claim to be for an all inclusive Ethiopian identity that would not exclude Tigrayans with the only intent to carry out a law enforcement action against the leaders of the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front and the Oromo. Yet they keep persistently silent when asked why deprive the innocents of food, medicine, and personhood. Why destroy hospitals, schools and factories? 

Abiy Ahmed and Isaias Afwerki continuous hatred toward Christians

Still from Amnesty International’s Crisis Evidence Lab geolocated a video showing people carrying a dead man on a stretcher in Da’Ero Ela Plaza (14.129918, 38.717113), towards Arba’etu Ensessa church.

Esaias Afwerki and Abiy Ahmed despite his claim of Christianity seemed joined together in their hatred for Christians during the Ethiopia Tigray conflict.

About 40,000 Irob (sometimes spelled Erob) people live on the northern Tigray Eritrean border. They speak a different language Saho then the Tigray and high percentage of them are Roman Catholics due in part to schools and support services placed in the community by the Catholic Church since the 19th century. Traditionally they have been allies with the Tigray in opposing Eritrea and the Derg. 

Many Irob who have lived in the areas recognized as Eritrean since Eritrean independence have suffered extrajudicial killings, imprisonment, displacement, and general deprivation for years. It was not unusual to hear that Eritrean authorities would come to dismantle Irob homes to use the lumbar for government projects. Authorities blocked church functions, funerals, and public gatherings to discuss local issues which were customary to Irob cultural tradition.

Since the Ethiopia Eritrean invasion of Tigray the situation only got worse. Investigation by the European Center for Law & Justice as well as the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights reports numerous murders of priests, Catholic lay, destruction of worship facilities, and also of social supportive buildings for the Irob. Many families report many if not all the men in their family were executed by Eritrean forces. This barbarism against is not only for Catholics but also Tigray Orthodox believers where more than 80 priests and lay worshipers were murdered in Axum .

During the invasion of Mekelle, I witnessed the artillery barrage destroying much of the building housing Catholic Charities. Eritrean forces then came and removed all files and communication equipment. While meeting with lay representatives of the church to discuss how we could help offer medical help, I was accosted by Eritrean soldiers and my cell phone erased by them.

Esaias Afwerki’s prosecution of Christians in Eritrea is rated by Open Doors as the 6th worst in world. He has closed Catholic schools and hospitals throwing sick patients into the street. Even though Abiy Ahmed claims to be a Christian and member of the Mulu Wongel (Full Gospel Believers Church) in Addis Ababa his partner in the war, Esaias has expelled, tortured, and killed many members of this same church in Eritrea.

Vatican News reports that Ethiopian authorities have raided a center in Addis Ababa arresting many priests, Salesian missionaries, volunteers, and employees. Many of the Salesians have lived in Addis since 1975 with strong pacifist sentiments.

The World Council of Churches representing 50 million Christians from 349 churches in 110 countries sent letters to both Abiy Ahmed and Ethiopian Christian churches in February 2021 condemning violence, lamenting displacement, and widespread hunger in Tigray.

Washington hosts decentralization alliance against Abiy Ahmed government

Nine opposition factions against the Ethiopian Federal Government met and announced their alliance in Washington DC this week

The announcement of the cooperation of nine antigovernmental citizen’s armed groups from Ethiopia including the Tigray, Oromo, Gambella, South Omo, Benigshagul and others in a Washington DC meeting is very telling about the United States intentions as regards Ethiopia. The current situation all parties including the Tigray People Liberation Front is different then that in 1991 when the TPLF defeated the Derg regime. 

We know the United States is strongly considering that the Tigray have suffered a genocide under Ethiopian and Eritrean military assault. This hosting of allied opposition groups in Washington D.C. clearly indicates that the United States is not seeing the Ethiopian situation as portrayed by the Ethiopian Federal government of solely the illegitimate rebel Tigray against the lawful national authority. The resolution will not be a return to status quo for Abiy Ahmed.

However, the claims by Abiy Ahmed supporters that the TPLF is seeking a new state dominated by one ethnic group are not supported by this movement called the United Front of Ethiopian Federalists and Confederalists Forces. They are jointly acting under the conviction that Abiy Ahmed violated the current Ethiopian constitution Article 39 in denying appropriate regional state autonomy. 

They are seeking if possible a negotiated peace as purposed by the United Nations and the United States which invokes the current Ethiopian constitution but so far Abiy Ahmed has only responded with rhetoric of “bury all Tigrayans” and no peace talks. It seems this united movement is the only chance to restore peace without further bloodshed. In that the Tigray and their allies agree with USA.

 

Leadership and humanity to foe has determined the victor in Ethiopia

The leadership of the Tigray and Ethiopian Federal Government

Whatever you might believe about the Tigray, the Oromo, or the Amhara the current situation has basically been about two armies and especially their leadership. The Ethiopian federal government under Abiy Ahmed had all the cards in his favor or so he thought. He professed that his intent with the invasion of Tigray was to do “enforcement”. His goal was to capture the rebel leaders to “liberate” the Tigray who like to be called the Tegaru.

I have never met Mr. Ahmed but I have had the pleasure many times to share airplane trips with Mr. Debretsion who is a quiet contemplative man who has an enormous intellect but at the same time understands the common man of Tigray. We always talked about what we were doing at the University and the hospital for the farmers.

The Tigray Defense Force has captured Dessie and now seems unstoppable while the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed, says today from Bahir Dar that Ethiopia cannot win militarily over the Tigray.  Rather than thousands dying in weeks of battle, the humanity of the Tigray Defense Force avoided extensive civilian causalities and offered humanitarian care of prisoners which encouraged the Ethiopian defense forces to surrender rather then die for nothing in Dessie. There is no doubt that what has happened in Tigray and northern Ethiopia is a human tragedy. Those who mostly suffered have been poor farmers whose lives are tied to a constant struggle to just survive even in times of peace. Years from now historians and political analysts will try to cast light on what lead to this catastrophe.  

However, Abiy Ahmed’s hidden agenda, which was to annihilate the Tigray people soon become obvious. Instead of trying to compassionately motivate the people of Tigray that they had their interest by securing food, power, internet, medicine, education, and personal security they unleashed barbarous savagery of rape, thief, deprivation, destruction and hate.

In his mind and in his pronouncement to his followers, Abiy Ahmed, belittled the Tigray to subhumans incapable of doing anything well. He seemed to forget their history of being capable of elite light infantry campaigns in guerrilla and conventional warfare. The Prime Minister put his faith in military leaders who had previously been defeated by the Tigray in the Derg war. Finally, his cruelty to the Tigray people motivated her population to sustain a war effort not for domination but for survival. Meanwhile much of Ethiopia outside of the main combatants realized that the war was an instrument of destruction not unity. The old story of Amhara expansion that characterized the 18th and 19th century domination of Abyssinia over the Cushitic and Southern peoples is over. Medemer was exposed as lie. Apparently Abiy Ahmed has sent his family to Switzerland. I hope a new era will emerge.

Ethiopian intentional punitive defunding and diversion of Tigray medical supplies

Ayder Comprehensive Specialized Hospital campus of Mekelle University

Intentional starvation and complete blockade of medical supply are primary strategies of the Ethiopian government towards the Tigray state in violation of not only moral propriety but also international law. How this unfolded will be told in this writing.

In discussion with displaced and in place faculty of Mekelle University this week I have learned that Ayder Comprehensive Specialized Hospital has more than 60 infants and children dying of starvation in the hospital averaging 2 or more deaths per day. Today there is no medicine, no nutritional supplements, no baby food or bottle formula, no laboratory, no x-ray, and the staff is all working voluntarily without pay. Every day children and adults are dying of simple treatable acute and chronic conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, childbirth, pneumonia, and accident just to name a few.  This intentional complete abandonment of the Ethiopian government’s responsibility to care for innocent noncombatants is a violation of international treaties and the Genocide Convention of the United Nations to which Ethiopia is a signatory. 

I previously published that we now can accurately estimate that the crude death rate, that is the number of expected deaths per 1000 population per annum will raise from its pre-war level of 6 by %500 to 32 (its level in 1950 when there was almost no health care) meaning over 228,000 people will die in Tigray each year due to complete lack of health care.

For the previous year while the Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Amhara regional governments were planning their invasion of Tigray there was also a plan to defund Mekelle University with reduction and stoppage of many routine payments such as for a routine repair of the MRI scanner and CT scanner.

Then following the Ethiopian Eritrean occupation of Mekelle in late November 2020 the medical supply, maintenance support, and even communication with Ethiopian Ministries of Science and Higher Education and Health were gradually completely cut off to the federally funded Ethiopian Mekelle University and it’s referral and teaching hospital Ayder Comprehensive Specialized Hospital.  

The acting President of Mekelle University, Dr. Fetien Abay, and Chief Academic Head of the College of Health Sciences, Dr. Hayelom Kebede,  went to see the military commander of the Ethiopian occupying forces in early December when the hospital’s supplies were already near exhaustion at Planet Hotel. He told them that the Ethiopian military and government had no responsibility to care for the civilian population. Subsequent discussions with Mulu Nega, the first appointed governor of the Tigray Interim Administration appointed by Prime Minister Ahmed to preside over the occupation, and then the Eritrean Abraham Belay, long time supporter of Isaias Afwerki, dictator of Eritrea and now the defense minister for Ethiopia who replaced  Nega he was too “lenient”. Communications with Belay were that Ethiopia had no responsibility to offer any civilian support or assistance because civilians were not supporting the Ethiopian government.

Since the occupation and extending even up to the recent few months intermittent conversations with Dr. Lia Tadesse by Dr. Hayelom  Kebede and others have proven failures. She has expressed regret in telephone conversations that she is not allowed to take any action to supply Ayder Hospital or the Tigray Regional Health Bureau because the Prime Minister has forbid it.

Almost two years ago I was consulting with a group working with multiple international nongovernmental organizations to propose a plan to help improve the function of Ethiopian government purchasing. This included discussions about joint ventures on producing medical consumables in Ethiopia. The plan was rejected after our presentation to the Ethiopian Investment Commission because the funder of a factory wanted to build it in Tigray. Out of this work came a discussion with high officials of the Korea Hospital that they had tried a similar goal  before and discovered that Ethiopia was selling some of the supplies it purchased at discounted price or partially subsidized price to other African countries at higher prices to get “hard currency”. It now appears that some supplies that were collected and meant to be shipped to Tigray since the onset of war may have been just given to Eritrea or instead sold as means to collect hard currency.

Finance Minister declares peace talks are the only way to economic survival of Ethiopia

Before the start of the Ethiopian Tigray conflict the Finance Minister was a rising star in bringing in investors to Ethiopia. Now he is desperately fighting avoid complete economic collapse

In a major break from Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed’s stance that no negotiations will be done with the “terrorist” Tigray National State government Ethiopia’s Finance Minister Eyob Tekalign this week announced that the guns should be silenced and peace negotiations begun to return to the path of prosperity. Mr. Tekalign and Ethiopia’s economy are in the midst of disaster after having paid more than a $ 1 billion USD as well as secretive Ethiopian gold transfers via Dubai  to Eritrea and hundreds of millions in weapons sales to Turkey, Iran, among other suppliers too. 

Ethiopia’s debt to foreign creditors now exceeds $30 billion USD requiring payment of nearly $2 billion USD annually for a country whose whole normal peacetime budget is $2 billion. Prior to Abiy Ahmed taking office Ethiopia had nearly 10% growth each year for the previous ten years but now the real growth for past year and half is -2%. Many analysts estimate that Ethiopia even if immediate peace was declared would require at least 10 years of solid growth exceeding 5% per annum to climb out of catastrophic debt.

Mr. Tekalign is meeting the representative countries from the International Monetary Fund to try to arrange newer financing and payment. The likely outcome is that in return for consideration in refinancing Ethiopia will likely have to make major and significant promises which will put its economic progress forward to be under rigorous scrutiny. In other words, Ethiopia’s foray into an unnecessary and unjust war will cost it significant freedom in future economic development until debts can be paid.

The Consumer Price Index has risen more than 250% over the past year along with inflation going over 40%. The Finance Ministry is trying to gain control by lifting taxes on basic food items and making banks increase deposit reserves with central banks. International bond raters now rate Ethiopian government bonds as Caa1 which is near worthless. Displacement of millions of farmers, locusts, changing rain patterns, and a complete absence of any near term stability for Ethiopia complicate any viable economic recovery. These failing economic indicators and the progressive success of the Tigray armed forces in dominating the Ethiopian and Eritrean forces are severely dampening any interest in foreign investment.