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Finote Selam Hospital Forced to Shut Down Amidst Instability and Pressure in Amhara Region

Disclaimer: This is a translation from BBC Amharic News. The translation is intended solely for information purposes.

Medical professionals report Finote Selam Hospital being forced to shut down as a result of instability and pressure

September 29, 2023 (Meskerem 18, 2016 EC)

Repeated attacks, instability and pressure against staff have forced the hospital in Finote Selam, main city of West Gojjam Zone of Amhara Region, to shut down according to medical professionals from the hospital.

Medical professionals told BBC health institutions have faced intense pressure following intensified fighting between the ENDF and Fano militants in recent weeks.

Hospital professionals said instability and pressure on workers has hindered the ability of hospitals in Gonder and Finote Selam cities from providing healthcare services.

Since fighting began in the region, repeated attacks, clashes and instability have been reported in Finote Selam city, and hospital workers told BBC that government forces were harassing workers accusing them of "treating Fano militants".

Similarly professionals in Gonder Hospital explained that patients who could have been treated lost their lives as a result of the current situation hindering delivery of healthcare and harassment from security forces.

Professionals in Finote Selam said in addition to the harassment, at this time the hospital has stopped regular services as per a hospital worker who choose to remain anonymous and has temporarily been forced to leave the area.

According to the hospital worker, following weeks long fighting in Finote Selam and the surrounding area, their electricity was shut off and the hospital was providing medical services for days using a generator.

They explained that the hospital was forced to shut down citing that "the generator was struck by an artillery shell which forced the shutdown".

In addition, the hospital worker said they faced threats including "you are treating shifta (Fano)" and added "we were forced to stop treating ordinary people". They said, "we are medical professionals, our duty is to treat patients. Whenever we tried to explain we had no allegiances to any side but we received threats in response".

Another health worker who opted for anonymity told BBC for these reasons hospital professionals had to stop working and health services were shutdown.

According to the professionals more than 120 workers were dispersed since last Saturday, September 23, 2023 (Meskerem 12, 2016 EC) when Finote Selam Hospital was shutdown.

At this time, a medical professional located at a distance from the city says last week on Thursday night he went to provide medical care and "on Friday morning two pregnant mothers lost their lives since there were no doctors available to perform surgery".

Regarding the deaths of these two mothers, another hospital professional confirmed the matter to BBC.

The medical professional who was at the area until Sunday September 24, 2023 (Meskerem 13, 2016 EC) said, "traveling to the hospital became scary, afterwards nobody dared to go back".

The first hospital worker said ENDF soldiers selectively targeted injured men accusing them saying "you are Fano militants" abused them and would take them away.

The medical professionals said how the suffering had targeted residents as well, "the crimes and abuses are too much to describe in words, when the truth comes to the light in the future the Ethiopian people will have an opportunity to see it."

The National Movement of Amhara (NaMA) Party representative in the Amhara Region and Federal Parliament Ato Habtamu Belayneh told BBC Finote Selam Hospital was forced to shut down after medical professionals were forced to stop working after facing harassment and threats.

As a result of the doctors stopping work, city residents hospitalized under various circumstances due to the fighting which lasted weeks could no longer receive any medical treatment.

Government security forces had told doctors, "you are Fano supporters. You are the ones who have been fighting us", and this harassment forced them to leave the hospital according to Ato Habtamu.

At this time, Finote Selam Hospital has completely shut down and victims of the war have been forced to travel to other areas for medical care, being transported on traditional transportation mechanisms.

BBC attempted to contact local officials and the ENDF for additional information but these efforts were unsuccessful due to the telecommunications shutdown.

Similarly, following the fighting in Gonder city last week hospital workers faced “threats and suffering” and patients were taken away by security forces according to hospital sources that spoke to BBC.

A medical professional in Gonder Hospital who preferred to remain anonymous due to fear for his safety said last Sunday following the fighting in the city army members “committed undue acts” against doctors and patients.

In Ayera Hospital located in Azezo Gonder city, “two doctors were told, bring us the Fano you are hiding and treating” and were harassed for hours before they abducted one of the medical professionals before releasing him at night according to hospital sources.

In Chechela Hospital (main hospital in Gonder) one medical professional said “they picked up four patients from their hospital beds and took them away” and “when they told them most were injured from stray bullets, they said you are Fano or Fano supporters and loaded them on vehicles and took them away”.

Following fighting on Sunday alone, 11 injured people were taken away for medical care according to a doctor.

The victims were injured by artillery shells which struck their residences or struck by stray bullets, including women and children, meaning they could not possibly be suspected of being a Fano militant by the ENDF.

The professional confirmed receiving reports that patients have been seized from the hospital and expressed concern that many injured victims could still be in their homes.

One resident whose brother was struck by a stray bullet in last Sunday’s fighting told BBC five patients including their brother were taken away from Gonder Hospital by the ENDF.

Despite doctors facing threats and harassment and patients being taken away, one doctor said Gonder Hospital was still operational.

Following fighting throughout Amhara Region in recent months, internet services have been disrupted.

In most areas of Gojjam and certain areas of North Wollo, telecommunications services have also been shut off.

For this reason, BBC has not been able to acquire additional information from local officials and residents.

In various areas of Amhara Region regular activity has stopped as a result of ongoing fighting.

As a result of gunfire exchanges between the Fano and ENDF, civilians have sustained casualties as reported in recent weeks.

The fighting has created pressure against health institutions and professionals, and Gonder Hospital had encountered shortages in medical supplies over a month ago which it reported to BBC.

Prior to this Amnesty stated it had received information about killings in Finote Selam, Bahir Dar, and Shewa Robit cities, and iterated the need for further investigations.

In this statement, it reported human rights violations in relation to the state of emergency imposed on the Amhara Region and called for the government to permit independent investigations in areas where violations were said to occur.

The World Health Organization’s Executive Director Dr. Tedros Adhanom had stated the fighting in Amhara Region has hindered delivery of humanitarian assistance.

He added that the fighting was hurting healthcare systems and called for the region to undertake protection of health services so that professionals could administer medical care, as he said last Nehase 2016 EC (August 2023).


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