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Eritrea for mobile viewing A week in a battle field! Survived an RPG!

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Date: Monday, 24 December 2018

A general practitioner currently working in Moyale Hospital, Ethiopia.


After the last conflict which I posted earlier as ‘endless battle of Moyale’, the town was in a tense situation – there had been palpable fear and tension on the air and we were wary of the situation. There had been occasional clash leaving casualties and some death.


December 24, 2018

How Moyale boys play! How can one not be wary of this situation!!
Make-believe war!

On Saturday the 10th a woman in her thirties shot dead by stray bullet while she was inside a Bajaj. She was travelling on the alternative back road since the main asphalt road was closed and unsafe for long time. There had been occasional clash since then…
The previous war has already done a great damage – it claimed the life of many and an entire village had burnt down and its inhabitants had already settled in a different location after constructing their light dome shaped tents! Other inhabitants had also constructed these makeshift tents in the bush preparing in advance for forthcoming conflicts! They have used them this time!

Some of the local people hide away in these make shift tents, many others dwell here permanently!
These are the light dome shaped huts made of acacia roots and covered with plastics and mats!

An intense gunfight started on Tuesday afternoon – some Casualties came of who one of the casualties were shot on the left upper chest with an exit wound at the back, he had labored breathing and he had bleed a lot… he had blood and air inside the chest cavity so we rushed to resuscitate him and put a tube inside his chest to remove the blood but he started to gasp just before we insert the tube – we lost him on our hands! we were very anxious as to what was happening while the defense force is still in town…we thought the defense force will intervene and stop the clash but it didn’t seem so as the clash were going strong and they have bad reputation for withdrawing when the clash gets intense!

The clash subsided in late afternoon we spend the night hoping it ends and we don’t wake up to the sound of gunfire…

On Wednesday, it seemed like a normal day – had my breakfast and walked to my HIV Care and Anti retroviral treatment (ART) clinic where I work. There were also patients at waiting area of OPD. I had seen some patients and was also working on a report with the Data Clerk. We were not able to hear the sound of the clash and the crowd as the ART clinic is few blocks behind the ER and quiet. But later the sound of gunshot and heavy artillery came to my ears and I said ‘please, not again’!

I rushed to the ER to help – there were a lot of injured people. Some of them were in a critical condition – a bullet to the head and chest! Its pity to learn that some of the injured are again civilians who were at home or on street in search of their loved ones!

The clash was very strong and intense like we have never seen before – was very frustrating to work in the ER while listening to the disturbing and scary sound of gunfire and heavy artillery.

We were helping the injured in two places – one in the old small ER with only three beds in it and another makeshift ER a wide room with a lot of mattress in it. There were a lot of injured men with all kind of bone fractures, chest and head injuries. In the late afternoon around 5pm I was in the other room evaluating a new injured man who was shot on his right loin with an exit wound on the left side with minimal bleeding – he was not able to move his legs nor feel the sensation of touch. He must have had spinal cord injury while I continue to evaluate the patient we heard a loud and terrify explosion – the sound was very near. I was terrified and didn’t now what to do but as I were to continue to evaluate the patient another louder explosion happened just seconds after the first one – this one was for sure inside the compound – I immediately let go of the patient and run to the gate and I saw the crowd dispersed like wind. I run to the back of building to shelter. Since then we stopped working, we were petrified… we later learned that it was an RPG aimed to attack the hospital! The remnant of the RPG was later discovered inside the compound! Our fear and panic had escalated to its peak so that we can no more do anything than thinking of an exit strategy!

The RPG remnant taken out of the ground inside the compound!

The CEO was also shocked and he doesn’t know what he can do! He told us he would find a car to evacuate us and he pleaded us to help until then so I went back to the ER, it was getting darker and the clash subsiding as usual but the ER was more hectic than ever – there was no one on the door coordinating the movement and helping us as everybody get confused and shocked. Everybody wants to get help as soon as possible, a man with laceration and another man with bullet wound would shout at you for help! What makes it difficult is more than the panic and frustration is the language barrier to calm them down and working environment (jostling with armed men with AK47 on their shoulder!).

An angry man (may be a militia) showed me a chest x-ray, which was sent by another colleague, it showed multiple fragments in the chest cavity but no blood collection in the cavity and I told him so but he got angry ‘how come you say its fragments – I saw the man who shoot me and he boasted that he killed the shooter and brought another rifle with him!!)’. He had three small wounds in the left lower lateral chest area but his vitals were normal and he was stable I reassured him that we will repeat x-ray later and moved to another patient – a very familiar face, a 7 years old Male known HIV patient on antiretroviral therapy got hit by explosive fragments on the right upper back. I opened an intravenous line and put the kid on fluid and clean the entry wound and dressed it and took him to x-ray…. while I was doing this that other man was shouting at me despite the reprimand of a colleague who knows the language well! Then I decided that it is dangerous to stay there and left the ER and went to home. We packed our luggage for an early morning departure. I spent the night with friends and colleagues who came to hospital for shelter! By this time only a few of us are in the hospital but others had already left! We heard that the fighter on the other side was pressing hard and they have already crossed the asphalt road. In the morning we went out in search of any bus available to leave – the hospital denied us a vehicle for a sole reason that the situation will get improved!! We found an old bus in front of the hospital we (about ten of us) hurriedly get into the bus hustling with the crowd of people – we didn’t get a seat we all stood among a multitude of people – there was no space to move around – we started the journey through the bypass sandy road through the bush until we come back to the asphalt road.

Leaving Moyale behind!
Can you see through the window of the bus – people on a lorry fleeing!!

When we reached Mega town some 100kms north of Moyale the people specially the youth were on the street demonstrating against the killing in Moyale. Inside the bus station a woman recognized our faces and she said the hospital must be empty as you all are here! Later in we learnt that the road is closed and we couldn’t go out! after about half an hour we managed to convince them and found a minibus but it was like a trap and we found ourselves in a big argument that we shouldn’t leave! We were stopped by group of youths called ‘Qerros’ and cabinet member. We were forced to get off and were taken back to Moyale against our will on an ambulance! Inside the ambulance there was a militia in the front seat and the cabinet and ten of us in the back-seat side to side. What is more annoying was that the cabinet bleed our ears with his bullshit propaganda and weak arguments despite our silence. He even mocked us by saying ‘we will give you AK47 and you will fight alongside’. He added that the stray bullets which come to the hospital compound are weak with minimal energy, you won’t die unless it’s your time….

The clash had still continued on Sunday for the sixth day in a row. It’s now getting boring and we got desensitized… late in the afternoon some of us gathered to watch the English premiere league Manchester united vs Liverpool in the medical director’s house. While we were watching the last minutes our medical director got tipped with information that the force on our side are withdrawing for an unknown reason and the fighter on the other side has reached the asphalt road – we thought this is rumor but what can we do we are already ready to leave anytime. We are told that we will be leaving the next morning. All patients had been sent to Yabello hospital.
Found this on the ground just in front of the ward – have no idea whether this cell was in shirt pocket or in his pant!

On Monday morning the clash again begun – the sound was close to our ears and terrifying! It was indeed true they were near! My friends and I found some food from a woman who used to cook in front of the hospital. (In all this time we were not able to get enough food – we often eats plumpy nut and few times a rice with goat meat prepared for patients and staffs!)

Eating Rice with some goat meat on it!

when we come back to the car ready to take some of us – the back seat was already full and only one man space reserved in the front seat for someone – i immediately seized that! Guess what my lean body helped and we shared the front seat for three, four with the driver!! The car left through the bush – we arrived at health center some 25 km away to be able to help the injured from there! But there were nothing in that health center , no sterile gauze , no lidocaine (local anesthetic), no drugs or fluids…

The ambulance went back to fetch some equipment, drugs and other staff members. Sadly, just before they leave the compound the hospital got bombarded by three RPGs – fortunately it hits the ground and didn’t do much damage! Two ambulances arrived and collected the remaining staff members from their hideouts and brought them to health center! It feels like the health center is in the middle of no where! The ambulances started to bring casualties…we had seen an helicopter flying to Moyale at midday. The injured men who were brought in the afternoon claimed that it was the defense forces who shot them!

Bokola Health center! 25 km North of Moyale!

After the day is done we made our way to Yabello and to Addis then after……..!

We will see what happens Next – Uncertain future!!!!  Please Share so that everybody knows about this hostile situation which the government ignored!

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