In the midst of escalating tensions between the Oromo Liberation Army and the Ethiopian government, West Wollega’s Begi and Kondala districts in Oromia regional state are now grappling with a malaria outbreak that has left at least 36 dead in just two months..
Malaria Amidst Malnutrition and Cholera
Local officials confirmed the surge in malaria cases, with Begi District Health Officer Lataa Banti revealing that 36 individuals succumbed to the disease while receiving medical care. With over 10,250 receiving treatment for the outbreak, residents note a concerning daily death toll of two to three individuals. This health emergency is intensified by circulating images on social media, showcasing severely malnourished children and mothers from the region.
Latta emphasized that a team has been sent to ascertain if there were unreported deaths within the communities. This crisis compounds the already alarming situation brought about by cholera outbreaks and acute malnutrition incidents across various regions, including Oromia, which resulted in over 200 fatalities by August.
Worsening Health Infrastructure
The Oromia Physicians Association (OPA) sounded alarms about the mounting number of malaria infections. Dr. Belayneh Latta, the Association’s President, noted a critical shortage of essential medical supplies, from blood and medicines to oxygen. Medical professionals are spread thin, and procuring medicines for malaria prevention is becoming increasingly difficult.
Almost all health posts in Begi, home to 100,000 residents, have been subjected to looting or damage, rendering them non-operational. Dr. Alemayehu Kiri, the medical director of Guduru Primary Hospital, highlighted the acute lack of emergency drugs, functional operating rooms, and even basic amenities like beds and water supply, largely due to damage to vital infrastructures.
An International Plea
As the situation intensifies, the OPA has initiated discussions with multiple stakeholders to address the outbreak. They’re rallying for assistance from both governmental and non-governmental humanitarian entities, cautioning that the situation might further deteriorate in the coming months.
The United Nations, in a statement released in July, described the dire humanitarian predicament in Wollega’s zones, exacerbated by the combined effects of the malaria spread, incessant rainfall, waterlogging, and weakened health systems due to ongoing hostilities. A staggering 272,400 individuals across West, East, and Kellem Wollega zones are reportedly affected. The majority of health centers and posts in these regions are now dysfunctional.
Compounding these crises are logistical challenges faced by humanitarian partners, who confront roadblocks and sporadic conflicts, hindering essential supply deliveries. The UN underscored a pressing need for anti-malarial drugs, diagnostic tests, insecticide-treated nets, and other essential resources to combat this malaria onslaught.