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Ethiopia: Despite truce, shortages of drugs, oxygen continue in Tigray as death increases

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The number of casualties has continued to increase in the prolonged unrest in the troubled Tigray region of Ethiopia due to shortages of life-saving drugs, oxygen, and other humanitarian needs.

Since its outbreak in November 2020, the war, which began in Tigray (northern Ethiopia) and then spread to the neighbouring regions of Amhara and Afar, has been marked by numerous allegations of abuses on both sides.

The war has led to unprecedented and significant attrition of health workers, reduction in maternal and child health services, and an increase in rates of malnutrition, the burden of infectious and non-infectious illness, and gender-based violence.

One of the doctors at Ayder Hospital in Mekele, Tigray’s capital, told journalists that at least 60 patients with kidney disease have died since July. This is due to the lack of supplies needed for regular dialysis.

Another 81 patients have died “directly because of a lack of oxygen” since the conflict between the federal government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, erupted in Nov. 2020, the doctor added.

Last month, the Ethiopian government announced an immediate, unilateral truce in its conflict with rebellious Tigrayan forces to allow aid into the northern province but that has not affected much regarding the accessibility of medical facilities.

The Tigray region is the northernmost regional state in Ethiopia. The Region is the homeland of the Tigrayan, Irob , and Kunama people. Formerly known as Region 1.

According to U.N. figures, more than 90% of Tigray’s 6 million people require humanitarian assistance, including 115,000 children who are severely malnourished. Some shortages have been alleviated by aid flights operated by the World Health Organization and the International Committee of the Red Cross, which have flown in 438 metric tonnes (482 tons) of medical and nutrition supplies since late January.

However, these supplies represent just 4% of what’s required, according to experts.

As a result, staff at Ayder Hospital say they have resorted to washing and reusing surgical gloves and treating patients with expired medicines. They are also recycling plastic breathing tubes and items used for dialysis.

“This is really risky for the patients; they can die of infections and other complications,” said the doctor. “Doctors elsewhere in the world would be shocked to hear we are doing this.”

Metro

South Africa slams 54 fraud, immigration charges on Rwandan genocide suspect

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One of the most wanted Rwandan Genocide suspects, Fulgence Kayishema has been slammed with a 54-count charge by South African prosecutors, including fraud and immigration charges.

Kayishema, an ex-Rwandan police officer who is wanted internationally over his alleged role in Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, was arraigned at a Cape Town court on Friday.

After being on the run for over two decades, Kayishema was arrested on May 24 on a grape farm in South Africa where he had been hiding under a false name, according to a prosecutor, who said refugees working in the farm gave him up.

Spokesperson of the South African prosecutors, Eric Ntabazalila, who addressed a press conference outside the court, said the fugitive now faced 54 separate charges relating to fraud and immigration offences, up from five previously preferred against him.

Kayishema had been a fugitive from justice since 2001, when the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) indicted him for genocide for allegedly ordering the massacre of 2,000 people hiding in the Nyange Catholic Church,” Ntabazalila told journalists.

Some of the charges could see Kayishema imprisoned for up to 15 years, said Ntabazalila.

South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) also allege that Kayishema used a false identity to apply for asylum and refugee status in South Africa.

The case was adjourned to June 20 to allow Kayishema’s defence team to consult, at which point he could apply for bail, while he is also expected to face extradition to Rwanda to be tried over the ICTR genocide indictment.

With Kayishema’s arrest, there are only three indicted fugitives still on the run after a sweeping indictment by the international tribunal.

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US, WFP, USAID suspend food aid to Ethiopia

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The United States along with the World Food Program (WFP) and the USAID have suspended food aid to Ethiopia following allegations of theft and diversion by government officials.

The WFP and the USAID announced the suspension on Friday, a day after the US government announced that it was suspending the programme due to the same reasons.

WFP Executive Director, Cindy McCain, who made the announcement early on Friday, said the suspension was temporary, until a full investigation was conducted by the Ethiopian government.

“We will temporarily cease food aid in Ethiopia, but nutritional assistance to children, pregnant and lactating women, school meals programs and activities to strengthen farmers and herders in the face of external shocks will continue without interruption,” McCain said in a press release.

Diversion of food is absolutely unacceptable. The Ethiopian government’s commitment to investigate and hold those responsible accountable is welcomed.

“WFP is working closely with its UN partners, humanitarian organizations and local actors to reform the way aid is distributed across Ethiopia,” she added.

On Thursday, the US government’s international aid agency, USAID, had announced the suspension of its food aid to Ethiopia, while denouncing a “widespread and coordinated operation to divert.”

“USAID intends to immediately resume food aid as soon as we have confidence in the integrity of the distribution systems to get aid to its intended recipients,” the agency had said.

In a joint statement with the USAID, Ethiopian authorities assured that a joint investigation was underway “so that the perpetrators of these hijackings are accountable.”

According to the UN humanitarian agency (OCHA), more than 20 million people of the 120 million Ethiopian population, about 16%, depend on food aid due to conflicts or recurring drought in the region which has also displaced 4.6 million people in the country.

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