The Ethiopian medical blockade of Tigray has caused thousands of birth related deaths

The United Nations Population Fund reports pregnant Tigray women have problems finding support

The Ethiopian complete medical supply blockade has turned  the normally happiest time in family life, the arrival of a new baby to a young married couple, into a nightmare . For Tigray’s population it is estimated that there are 36 births per 1000 population giving an estimate of 252,000 births per year. Prior to the onset of the Ethiopian occupation with its subsequent medical blockade of Tigray we know that maternal mortality from births in Tigray averaged 266 per 100,000 live births. Of those deaths the most common cause was hemorrhage accounting for 34%. Ethiopia already had one of the highest rates of post-partum hemorrhage with some areas reporting 676 per 100,000 the highest in the world.  In the best of conditions another twenty infant deaths occur per 100,000 births due to maternal complications of pregnancy. Of course these numbers were estimates because many women still delivered outside of medical attendance and births are often not registered. Estimates are that 19% of women delivered in medical attendance in Tigray.

The Ethiopian blockade of medical supplies has made it impossible to run a blood bank and treat complications of delivery. There are no drugs, medical equipment, or even the capability to do surgery to stop a dangerous post partum hemorrhage. I can tell you from my experience at Ayder Comprehensive Specialized Hospital in Mekelle that everyday many young women giving birth had their lives saved by blood transfusion. Now these women die. 

If we take into account that the there is no treatment now for post-partum hemorrhage, neonatal respiratory failure (no oxygen, suction, intubation supplies), sepsis from infection (no antibiotics or intravenous lines), and no caesarian section for breech presentation, cephalopelvic disproportion or even fetal distress the severe complication and death rate will climb exponentially . Maternal and infant mortality for Tigray has no doubt soared to that seen in previous centuries.

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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