HAMDAYET, Sudan (AP) – Ethiopia’s month-long war in its northern Tigray region has severely hampered efforts to fight one of Africa’s worst coronavirus outbreaks, as the fighting has displaced nearly 1 million people and strained local humanitarian services to the breach. Pound.
Tens of thousands of those fleeing the conflict between Tigrayan and Ethiopian federal forces are crossing into neighboring Sudan, where agricultural virus numbers are also rising rapidly.
More than 45,000 refugees from the Tigray conflict now live in remote parts of Sudan, where they have taken shelter in crowded camps that have no coronavirus testing or treatment capabilities.
“With COVID-19, it was not comfortable in the buses,” said one of the refugees, Hailem, who said more than 60 people had been crushed on the transport that took them from Hamdayet, on the Sudanese side of a major border. Across to the camps.
Many staying in the camps were forced to share shelters and crowd together in lines for food, money and registration with different aid agencies. There are few face masks to see – or available for distribution.
At Umm Rakuba camp, Javanshir Khediyev with the help of Mercy Corps told the Associated Press that the number of breast infections was high, but that humanitarian workers had no materials to test for the coronavirus.
Few of the refugees see the pandemic as their first concern, having witnessed deadly attacks as they fled Ethiopia, and now living in fear for family members left.
“I just escaped war,” said one, Gebra Metten. “I think the war is worse.”
Gebre said that a virus outbreak is but a drastic condition in the refugee camps, bringing the dangers forgotten, as they face hunger, heat and thirst.
But Sudan’s growing virus cases have raised concerns that a new agricultural lockdown could be imposed – including measures that could stop further refugees from crossing the border.
“People who are fleeing conflict and violence are also fleeing for their lives,” UN said. Refugee chief Filipo Grandi said last weekend about the Tigray conflict. “So we have a difficult dilemma.” He added that with the right health measures one can keep “the policy of open borders”.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abi Ahmed declared victory in the months-long conflict last week, but fighting between federal and regional forces has continued.
According to humanitarian officials, the crisis in the Tigray region of 6 million people remains critical, with medical supplies being low, including the need to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
“The pandemic is still with us, despite the fighting and a new humanitarian crisis unfolding in its wake,” the International Committee for the Red Cross said recently after visiting struggling health centers in the Tigray and neighboring Amhara regions.
The largest hospital in northern Ethiopia, in the tiger capital of Mekele, “is dangerously low with sutures, antibiotics, anticoagulants, painkillers, and even gloves,” said ICRC’s Maria Soledad.
Ethiopia transmitted 100,000 confirmed infections last month shortly after the deadly conflict began.
All humanitarian aid to the Tigray area, from medical supplies to food, has been blocked since the fighting began, to the growing need of the humanitarian community and health experts. On Wednesday, the UN. Said she had signed a deal with the Ethiopian government to allow aid access in Tigray – but only to the areas of her under federal government control.
The access will take time as the fighting continues.
The head of the Norwegian Refugee Council, Jan Egland, said aid workers were still “very concerned” as they prepared to return to the Tigari region, where there was little information about how the conflict affected local health facilities and Infrastructure, or the spread of the outbreak.
Ethiopian Health Minister Lea Tadesse has not responded to a request for comment, detailing whether the ministry has received updates from the region on new infections in the past month.
“Clearly, an effective response to pandemic outbreak is always challenged when there is instability,” the director of the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, John Nkengasong, recently told reporters. The coronavirus situation in Ethiopia “will be very challenging to bring under control,” he added.
As an example, Nkengasong said it took more than two years to end a recent Ebola outbreak in eastern Congo under the constant threat of attack by rebel groups despite the “best tools we have ever had” against the disease. , Including new vaccines.
Ending a later outbreak in more peaceful western Congo, Nkengasong said, took less than three months.
Anna reported from Nairobi, Kenya.