(Source Mail Online, By Afp) –
The medical charity MSF on Monday condemned a “deliberate and generalised” programme of targeting clinics in the conflict-hit Tigray region of Ethiopia.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed launched a military campaign in Tigray last year after blaming the region’s ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), for attacks on army camps.
Abiy, winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, declared victory when federal forces entered the regional capital Mekele in late November, though TPLF leaders remain on the run and fighting continues.
A statement issued Monday by Doctors Without Borders, known by its French acronym MSF, said “treatment structures in the Ethiopian region of Tigray were looted, vandalised and destroyed in a deliberate and generalised manner” according to its observers in the area.
The group said it had visited 106 sites between mid-December and early March, and that around 70 percent had been looted.
Only 13 percent “functioned normally”, the statement added.
At the hospital in the town of Adwa, in central Tigray, medical equipment including ultrasound machines “had been deliberately smashed,” MSF said.
– Soldiers occupying clinics –
A facility in Semema “was reportedly looted twice by soldiers before being set on fire,” while a facility in Sebeya “was hit by rockets, destroying the delivery room,” it said.
Residents of the area were forced to rely on less well-equipped and staffed clinics for treatment, and often had to reach them on foot because ambulances had been requisitioned by the armed forces.
One in five of the health facilities MSF visited were occupied by soldiers.
“In certain cases, this occupation was temporary, while in others, it continued during the visit,” the group said.
In Abiy Addi, a town in central Tigray, the hospital was occupied in early March by Ethiopian forces to treat their wounded, while in Mugulat to the east, “Eritrean soldiers” used a local clinic as a base, MSF said.
Both Addis Ababa and Asmara have denied the presence of Eritrean soldiers in the region, contradicting reports from residents, aid workers and some officials in Tigray’s Abiy-appointed interim administation.
MSF director general Oliver Behn urged that clinics in Tigray be repaired and that medical staff be paid and allowed to work in a secure environment.
Abiy’s government says life is returning to normal in Tigray, including in the health sector.
In a statement published Sunday night, the country’s peace ministry said 75 percent of hospitals in Tigray were “now operational” and that 10 percent were “operating partially.”