July 17th, 2020
By Elsa Tekle, MD
While in medical school, my friends and I dreamed of providing medical services to my fellow Eritreans in need.
These days, I find that many Eritrean healthcare workers suffer from a particular anxiety due to the conditions and suffering of Eritreans around the globe. We acknowledge the hardship of our fellow Eritreans; those who do not have access to basic healthcare services and/or are suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) inside and outside Eritrea. These are only a few of the many hardships Eritrean natives currently face.
Healthcare professionals in neighboring countries of Eritrea have organized and, in collaboration with their respective governments and NGOs, are successfully supporting their countrymen at home. The government of Eritrea prohibits any such program. Witnessing the success of collaboration between governments and healthcare professionals, and our own country’s inability to do the same, leaves many Eritrean healthcare professionals, like myself, feeling helpless.
As many of us know, the biggest factors that continue to deteriorate the current mental and physiological state of health of Eritreans are: constant fear of harm from the government that their families and/or themselves may face, a lack of basic human rights, prevalent malnutrition, poor living conditions and currently- most concerningly – hunger ( UN Eritrea World Report 2020). Taking advantage of the current Covid-19 pandemic, the Eritrean government has enforced a stay at home order that has made Eritreans prisoners of their own home, unable to leave for basic necessities without running the risk of their safety.
Last year, many of us wept endless tears when the government of Eritrea closed the clinics run by the Catholic Church and discontinued life-supporting services received by sick patients in the midst of their care. How devastating that must have been for the healthcare providers at the site, not to mention the families and loved ones of the victims.
I often wonder what happened to patients who were getting therapeutic feeding products for Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) and Moderate Acute Malnutrition (MAM)? Closing functioning clinics without an alternative in place is reflective of the dysfunction within the Eritrean health care system. In May 2019 the government of Eritrea closed all functioning Catholic church run health clinics that were actively saving lives. Considering the recent news that the Ministry of Health in Eritrea is now collaborating with UNICEF to address the many issues Eritreans currently face, I commend UNICEF for trying to help the Eritrean people tirelessly to address malnutrition particularly, in rural areas. However, the action of the Eritrean government when deciding to shut down active clinics, is shameful and must be acknowledged.
I often feel broken, but I refuse to give up. I trust in myself and the rest of my fellow Eritrean healthcare professionals to be part of the solution.
I am encouraged by the many goodhearted and highly accomplished Eritrean healthcare professionals who are eager to contribute their services to Eritreans in need.
If we work together, I am confident we have the resources, the knowledge, and the manpower required to meet the challenges our people face. I am very close to achieving my medical school dream of supporting Eritreans in need and am excited to collaborate with those who share that dream with me.