Eritrean –Ethiopian war (1998-2000), a brief reflection.
I took brisk steps as I approached the main entrance of the hospital’s auditorium. I was the on call GP. It was a busy night call.
I barely had a moment’s sleep. I had to pull the charts to be there on time to present the admissions and main events that happened overnight in this hospital in the center of Addis Ababa.
It was not an ordinary hospital; being late was not tolerated.
It was not an ordinary time, in the middle of the Eritrean –Ethiopian war. It was in 1998.
The senior internists and general surgeons had taken the first raw followed by the two pediatricians, gynecologists, radiologists. And almost all of the general practitioners had taken the back rows. The room was unusually full. I found a spot towards the back next to my good friend Dr T. We both were recent graduates but from two different medical schools. The hospital’s ear, nose and throat surgeon walked in next followed by the medical director of the hospital.
A former colonel, the medical director of the hospital was respected when it comes to medical knowledge but was also feared.
“Good morning,” he paused and looked at us.
“I want you all to stay after finishing the morning report.”
The room remained quiet.
The medical director looked at me and indicated to start the report.
I did a summary of how many patients I had seen in the hospital’s urgent care, how many I had admitted and I recall telling them with excitement the delivery of twins, a boy and girl that I had assisted. Respiratory ailments like tuberculosis, bronchitis, asthma, heart failure were all presented in a precise summary.
It was unusual in that no one was interrupting me with questions or comments like the other morning reports. Even the surgeons were quite.
Everyone looked tense and away.
Shortly the chief nurse walked in and took a sit next to the medical director. We knew than something was up.
“Well, I know that you all may not be aware but today we have to pick one of you to join the medial team that will go to the war.” He said firmly.
The war was raging at the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea including at the disputed Badme. It was a war that eventually would kill several thousands and by some estimates close to 100,000. Unfortunately it was a war between two countries of the same people but there was no time to reason out. Logic didn’t exist.
Every one knew it was coming but at least some of us had no idea that it would be that fast.
“It is going to be a rotating service for 3 or 6 months,” he followed.
“The first one goes to,” he looked towards where I was seated next to my good friend Dr T unrolling the piece of paper that he picked.
Dr T was the lucky one. When the chief nurse announced his name he was stone cold and was still sitting after everyone else had left the room, in a hurry ,to call their families. I stayed behind.
It was a sacrifice the country requested.
He packed up the following day and joined the team that was heading north to assist the war. Dr T came back safe but with many war stories about heroic deeds and near survivals. Until the end of the war in 2000, many of my colleagues and other health providers followed… some of us were spared because of sheer luck but put up the time to cover our colleagues . It was a war that touched many lives.
Today, 20 years later, partly because of the change sought by the likes of the twins that have come of age since the war, the leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea have resolved their differences and made peace so that the same people in two different countries ,however late , can restart living together in peace.
And no more surprises at the end of the morning report.