The main hospital in Ethiopia’s Tigray region has run out of food

NAIROBI, April 22 (Reuters) – The main hospital in Ethiopia’s war-torn Tigray region has sent 240 patients home after supplies ran out last week, officials said.

The decision by Ayder Referral Hospital in Mekelle, the capital of Tigray, underscores how little food aid is reaching the region despite the government’s declaration in March of a unilateral truce to allow aid deliveries.

A hospital official, who asked not to be named, said there were still around 360 patients who could buy their own food. New patients without food or money were turned away, he said.

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Those who had to leave included babies with meningitis and tuberculosis and a 14-year-old boy with HIV, two nurses told Reuters.

Tedros Fissehaye, a nurse in the pediatric ward, said patients and their families were hungry on Thursday April 14. On Friday, April 15, he had to visit the services and tell them that there would be no more meals. Ten patients left.

“Nobody cried. We’ve been through our tears for months now. But every nurse was so sad,” he told Reuters. “Families said, pray for us, instead of dying here, let’s go home and die there.”

Another pediatric nurse, Mulu Niguse, said the hospital was 90 per cent short of drugs, but last month he was given HIV pills and tried to treat other illnesses with all the antibiotics he had. he could scrounge. Children freed would likely die, she said.

Ethiopian Health Minister Lia Tadesse and Mitiku Kassa, head of the National Disaster Risk Management Commission, did not respond to requests for comment.

A conflict broke out in November 2020 between the central government and the rulers of Tigray. Since the army withdrew from Tigray in July after months of bloody battles, only a tiny trickle of food aid has entered. The United Nations said 100 aid trucks were needed every day. But convoys are struggling to get through, partly because of fighting and partly because of bureaucratic delays.

Since the government’s ceasefire announcement on March 25, 71 trucks have arrived, said Michael Dunford, regional head of the United Nations World Food Programme. A third convoy has been cleared by the federal government and WFP is negotiating with regional authorities for safe passage, he said.

“It is essential that these convoys move and that they move now. If not, then we… will see a spike in hunger-related deaths,” he told Reuters.

More than 90% of the people of Tigray need food aid. Ayder’s staff have not been paid since July and were themselves dependent on the hospital for food. Nurse Mulu said her children ate once a day.

A doctor said that since the food ran out he had discharged two cancer patients awaiting operations; he had operated on a third on Tuesday who had only been able to afford milk.

The hospital has no cancer drugs, the doctor said, sharing photos of a 2-year-old girl, her eye disfigured by a bulging tumor, and a 14-year-old boy hooked up to a drip- drop by drop because nothing else was available.

“If you come to the hospital, it’s so empty,” he said sadly.

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Additional reporting by Dawit Endeshaw; Editing by William Maclean

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