Cancer is killing Eritreans and Eritrean Regime is Simply Watching (Part 1/2)

Preamble:

A study conducted in 2016 under a title ” Trends in the Incidence of Cancer in Eritrean Hospitals and Eritrean National Health Laboratory 2000-2010″ and published at UK Journal of Pharmaceutical and Biosciences based on data report obtained from the Ministry of Health – Eritrea of the year that ranges from 2000 to 2010 indicated that the number of cancer cases confirmed was 19,636 out of these 9,482 cases were positive for cancer. The research conducted found that cancer registered among female is the highest (60.82%) compared to male (39.18%).

The study also found that the number of cancer cases was increasing since 2000. Despite the increased cancer cases, Eritrea has not yet introduced means to treat cancer for its own citizens. In consequence, few among the thousand victims are leaving the country in masses to seek medical treatment. 

Once I looked deeper into this subject matter, I can not keep my silence. I organized by dispersed energy to write a lengthy article so that political awareness can be enhanced for taking necessary action to fight against the suffering of Eritreans by all activists, civic and political organizations. 

At this time, Eritreans are not only suffering from political oppression but also health related problems caused by mismanagement, carelessness, and corrupted political decisions. Health related subject needs extensive coverage. Hoping many activists to join me, my objective is to call the international community so that necessary actions can be taken to pressure Eritrea to do something. I am presenting you this article titled by “Cancer is Killing Eritreans and the Eritrean Regime is simply watching”

To simplify for readers, this article is divided into two parts. The first one tries to give highlights on the current situation of Cancer patients in Sudan. The second part will explore Cancer situation in Eritrea, possible causes, the silence of the dictatorial regime for the case of cancer and a call to Eritreans and International community, especially WHO to give a focus on the increasing trend of cancer in Eritrea and take necessary measures to intervene on the prevention methods and introduce necessary technology so that Eritreans can be treated at home.

PART 1/2

Painfull and Horrifying Images 

These days, every time I open my facebook page I am encountered with shocking images that put me disturbed the whole day. These images (see below – I apologize for any inconvenience) are not good news at all but sad. It is what I see from shared Facebook feeds through hundreds of my friends showing Eritreans who are victims of cancer. They are accompanied by “call for help or fund raising campaign”  messages for financial help. They are all horrifying. 

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Figure 1: Nardos Goitom, Student at Eritrean Institut of technology, Brain Tumor

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Figure 2: Feven Habteab, 3rd year Eritrean Institut of Technology Student, Blood Cancer

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Figure 3: Daniel Yakob, age 30, victim from Pelvic Cancer

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Figure 4: Senait Ahferom, age 30, mother of 6 children, brain cancer

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Figure 5: Asmelash Gebeya, father of 3, victim of Blood Cancer

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Figure 6: Victim of Ovary cancer. She became aware of her cancer when she was in her honeymoon days after she got married in September 2014

A mother patient with Stage 4 Malignant Brain Tumor

Figure 7: Ikram, A mother, and victim of Stage 4 Malignant Brain Tumor 

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Figure 8: Cancer patients in the newly established reception center in Khartoum (Four Eritrean victims of Cancer, starting from the second man at the left, two men and two women and three volunteers who are are working to help those cancer patients) 

 

Figure 9: Yodit, victim of Breast Cancer

 

Figure 10: Actress Beke Weynihareg, Age 41 and mother, died in Khartoum on Jan. 19, 2016 from Breast Cancer while receiving cancer treatment

One may wonder why these Cancer patients are in Khartoum. It is true that these victims were supposed to get treatment in their home country. It is unfortunate to see in 2017 Eritrea has not yet introduced medical technology that can treat cancer. Despite Eritrea’s claim and publicity of achieving 6 out of 8 Millenium Development Goals, the country still lacks basic health services that could have saved thousands of its own people from endangering diseases. As a result, cancer victims are forced to search their own means of treatment. Anyone who seeks medical treatment the only choice is to go abroad or die at home.

Of course, no one can simply watch his/her death while death is approaching. In addition to financial burdens, to obtain permission for a medical leave from PFDJ government is not easy.  Above all, there is no free movement of people. Anyone who wants to travel abraod permission must be secured from government officials. To do this, one needs to prove his illness through medical checks and screening of government officials of respecitve duties to certify the disease is incurable inside Eritrea. To do this, the first step is to fulfilm all requirements by the state, such as compeltion of national service, aka ‘slavery’.  To get the final confirmation and then permission from the immigration department, it is time demanding, too bureaucratic and needs huge money and exhaustive. By the time the paper becomes ready, the patient is already weak and cancer has become fully developed.

At this stage, the nearby immergency  place to get first cancer treatment is Sudan. Henceforth, almost all victims go to Sudan. For this reason, Sudan is the primary hosting country for almost all cancer victims who can afford initial travel expenses. Though Sudan hospitals are welcoming Eritreans for treatment, based on the capacity of patients, it is expensive.

Though is is hard ro figure our first Sudanese health care system is not well developed. Sudan natioanls go abroad,  like to India. In addition, patients need to wait doctors for so long as there are no enough experts.  This is another big challenge

As noted above, the time they reach Sudan, they are already weak. Any additional days are hard to wait in patience. Patients can afford neither hospitals nor hotels. Living cost is expensive. In short, it is hard to imagine the suffering they pass through. The psychological problem and physical pain are more than one can think about.

The only hope they could imagine in this challenging time is, therefore, to get a place to stay and proceed their treatment.  I had no prior information what was going on in Sudan with these patients. However, an Association established in 2015 that works with the cancer victims helped to figure out about their suffering.

Hope Never Ceased: A Solidarity Association for Cancer Victims in Khartoum

According to information available on their Facebook page, an idea was initiated by a cancer survivor named Ms. Yordanos Tesfu. Having experienced cancer and passing through all the aforementioned challenges, Ms. Tesfu shared her noble idea to establish a center so that others could get relief from the bitter experience she had gone through. Her idea got the attention of friends and in October 2015, a humanitarian non-governmental and independent association was established in Khartoum legally.

Ms. Yordanos Tesfu giving briefings about history, Cancer victims in Sudan and her activity to help 

Dedicated and good hearted Eritreans took a step to establish the center Mrs. Yordanos Tesfay envisioned. Because of their relentless effort and dedication, a housing center was officially inaugurated on May 08, 2017 in Khartoum to host patients during their treatment period. The housing reception center is a compound composed of 9 rooms equipped fully to host and give full services for cancer patients who come from Eritrea.

The group named by itself, “Eritrean Group to Assist Cancer Case – ጉጅለ ምትሕግጋዝ ሕሙማት መንሽሮ ኤርትራውያን ኣብ ካርቱም ”  has six major objectives.

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  1. To provide information to cancer patients about treatment and consultation centers.
  2. To provide professional consular services.
  3.   to create a center where patients can exchange information and share their ideas.
  4. To promote public awareness about cancer diseases and prevention mechanisms
  5. To provide financial support depending on available resources
  6. To provide psychological and financial support by visiting for those who are unable to leave their residence place

Inauguration of reception and housing center for Cancer patients in Khartoum

Eritreans residing all over the world responded positively to help the patients by organizing fund raising events. Hope never ceased. Such kind of solidarity, not only gives hope to the patients but it is a means of psychological relief to the patients as people are sending their solidarity messages, both financially and morally.

Some of the fund raising events:

  1. Norway

Fund raising event in Norway

2. Pretoria, South Africa

Students from Pretoria, South Africa organized fund raising events

3. Israel

Eritreans from Israel

Testimonies

Eritreans from Israel

Some of the victims while giving a testimony, Khartoum

End of Part 1/2

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