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Eritrea: From Trenches and Caves to the United Nations General Assembly

High level Eritrean delegation participating at the 69th UN General Assembly in New York

Eritrea: From Trenches and Caves to the United Nations General Assembly

The 69th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) has seen national delegations from around the world convene to debate and dialogue a wide range of topics including, inter alia, a post-2015 agenda, climate change and the environment, conflicts involving ISIL/ISIS, Iraq and Syria, Iran's nuclear ambitions, Gaza, and the ongoing tensions between Ukraine and Russia. Another important, yet less heralded, meeting occurring is Eritrea's hosting of a panel on "Innovations Driving Health Millennium Development Goals" - where the country will share the methods for its success. Such a development represents a tremendous leap; only decades ago, Eritrean "society" literally resided within underground trenches, caves in the mountains, and in the harsh, barren deserts.

To the uninitiated, Eritrea's focus upon and commitment to health began in earnest in the late 1960s and early 1970s, during the early years of the protracted war of independence. In developing a medically sound health system, the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF) prioritized: ".proper nutrition; adequate and safe water supplies; basic sanitation; immunization; the prevention and control of endemic disease; health education and curative services" (Pateman 1990: 222).[i]

Although in 1970 it only possessed a single mobile health unit, the EPLF was soon able to boast: having trained 1600 barefoot doctors and forty-one barefoot midwives (by 1985); 418 village health workers and 150 birth attendants (by 1986); thirty functioning health service stations and twenty-two health centers; forty-one mobile barefoot health units; 320 village health workers; 41 radio technicians; 18 dental assistants; 151
nurses; six regional and one central hospital (Pateman 1990: 22).

Of particular note, the EPLF's central hospital at Orotta, in Barka, and the pharmacy unit hold legendary, almost mythical auras. The Orotta hospital was often distinguished as the "longest hospital in the world" since it was built into the underground maze of trenches and tunnels,[ii] and it was the scene of thousands of operations performed by EPLF surgeons. Equally impressive, the EPLF's pharmacy unit was made up of twenty-two members, and ".by the end of 1987 it was producing fourteen types of tablets and capsules - two million per month - and hoping to provide.for sixty percent of the population's needs" (Pateman 1990: 222) Further, it produced 44 different types of medical supplies, including infusions, intravenous fluids, syrups and ointments.[iii]

Yet, even though these efforts were key to Eritrea's momentous liberation and embodied the EPLF's commitment to the health of the population, at independence the country immediately faced destruction upon a mass scale, ".everything was destroyed [and there were].no roads, no electricity, no water.., no education.nothing was there"; for all intents and purposes, Eritrea started from well "below zero."[iv]

Since that point however, Eritrea has remained staunchly committed to fulfilling citizens' rights to health, and ultimately witnessed tangible, positive development outcomes - in spite of an array of socio-economic, regional, and global challenges. Such success is the fruit of a self-reliant approach, a capacity to adapt to adverse circumstances, effective coordination, multi-sectorial, cost-effective projects, community involvement enabling improved health-seeking behaviors and widespread buy-in - and the relentless efforts of innumerable men, women, and children around the country.[v] Who could have scripted how a low-income country, located within one of the world's most volatile, fractious regions, went from surviving in underground trenches and mountain caves, to sharing the lessons of development success at the United Nations?
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Eritrea: From Trenches and Caves to the United Nations General Assembly Reviewed by Admin on 10:57 AM Rating: 5


  1. It is a rough road that leads to the heights of greatness and E.P.L.F always knows the price of greatness is responsibility to Eritrea and her people.

    Zelalemawi kbrin N'swatna!!!! Awet N'hafash!!!

  2. I wonder why PIA is not at the meeting?

    Awet N'Hafash

  3. It is not a myth, it is a reality! So every nation should be happy and gives credit to the gov't and the people. This is an evidence to the world for most of the MDG goals are attained. Therefore if the grass root people are aware of their beings and their status is in a better condition, everybody should work out on the other factors which cause the number of refugees greater i.e how to tackle poverty vis a vis social and political issues.

  4. Your pia Is Dia . criminals are not allowed to UN meeting. I don't know which eritrea is talking about the author. In eritrea there is no medical care. You cannot find medicine in eritrea. Why eritrean politicians go to Europe for medical care?

  5. Tayio what a dummy you are. agame dedeb. what are you talking?

  6. You remind me of some factual stories of two African countries where there was no food to eat because of war and insecurity. Now both countries are in a good trend. Time will come. Be patient!

  7. It is empty propaganda as usual. Where are our achievements? We are still in caves and trenches, we couldn't able to live peacefully with our neighbors because of zero leadership and politics that brought us all kind of problems to our Country as if we are deferent from the rest of the World that isolated us. In order to get out of all these problems the new leadership is strongly necessary for our Country.

  8. Horrible and Hidden Poverty in Tigray (video)

  9. You are so right. What more do prescribe the tigrayans do?


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