Editor’s note: This is a letter Tghat received from a medical doctor. The doctor has requested to remain anonymous and the story concerns a blatant double standard and hypocrisy the leadership of the society has exhibited on issues related to Tigray.
They teach you how to heal wounds, how to alleviate pain, how to rehabilitate the health of an individual. They teach you how to memorize the drugs but the empathy and attachment to saving lives comes with practice. As health-care professionals, the pain and suffering we see every day should have humbled us but I suppose some people are immune to empathy or sympathy.
This past year I have learned that many monks, popes, priests and sheikhs have made God their livelihood without properly internalizing their own teachings, going so far as waging a war in the name of God. But they are not alone in failing to understand their roles. I have also learned that health-care professionals joined for the clout and salary that comes with being a doctor, a nurse, or a pharmacist. Saving humans lives does not seem to be of any importance. This is not surprising to those who followed the war on Tigray. I find myself puzzled staring right into my certificates and looking at my teachers, former colleagues and classmates. Those I invited to speak on behalf of medicine and health care, those I thought were key opinion leaders, What have they taught? What have they learned? What have I learned?
Just a few days ago, an Ethiopian friend of mine shared a screenshot of a discussion on a telegram group of the Ethiopian Pediatric Society. On 22 January 2022 a pediatrician who works at Ayder Referral Hospital wrote to the group asking the EPS to be a voice to the dying children only to be met with deaf ears. A couple of individuals sent their well wishes to the doctor as an individual, ignoring his desperate plea.
Met with absolute silence, the pediatrician wrote again on 24 February 2022. He wrote about the shortage of medicine and supplies and the need for the EPS to raise awareness and help those in need. No one responded to the message.
On 25 February 2022, another message was delivered to the telegram group from Tigray. Another pediatrician wrote to the group on the day of the EPS’s annual conference. Clearly, he sent his message in hope that the EPS would remember and address the problems the patients and pediatricians face in tigray. He stated that pediatricians were suffering along with their patients as they had not been paid for more than eight months. The pediatricians reached out because they thought a professional society, that took an oath to protect lives regardless of politics and race, would care for those children too.
Instead of reacting in the most natural way, which is to ask questions and find a way to support the children and professionals in need, the message from Tigray along with the well wishes from other Ethiopian professionals, was deleted by the group administrator, Professor Bogale Worku. The Professor wrote that the platform doesn’t entertain political messages.
What is ironic is that On 8 December 2021, he, a neonatologist by profession, wrote and mobilized support for Amhara and Afar regions on the same platform. On 25 February 2022, he said, regarding Tigray, the severe malnutrition and the suffering of physicians was “political” and “should not be shared on the Ethiopian pediatric society platform. Little did the professor know that many of these professionals were not pleased by his actions, in fact many were shocked by his blatant disregard for human lives or betrayal of his oath.
One professional voiced their concerns stating that caring for these lives is part of their professional duty and that messages should not be deleted.
Professor Bogale did not only deny his former colleagues and members of the society the help they needed to save lives but also denied them the acknowledgement of their pain and suffering. He also threatened to block professionals who raised issues about Tigray labeling it “ politically loaded posts”. He must have taken the Hypocrisy Oath, for only that would explain why he would think deleting a message about starving children is a professional conduct.
I wonder if his oath was: “I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person’s family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick BUT ONLY IF THEY ALIGN WITH MY POLITICAL IDEOLOGY and I will abuse all of the power given to me”
I understand this is not the first time in history that health-care professionals facilitated or covered up a genoicde. I also know that this is not the first time that Ethiopian health-care professionals ignored the pain and suffering of rural communities or even manipulated health care for political agendas but it should not be normalized nor be without consequences. I refuse to let individuals with narcissistic personalities shape and lead the healthcare sector anywhere.
Dear Professor Bogale, What is it that you promised to do on your graduation day? Have you always resented treating Tigrayans? Why have you chosen to ignore these children who don’t even know they are in Tigray? Why did you DELETE THE MESSAGE SENT FROM TIGRAY? Do you not know this will pass? DO YOU THINK ONLY TIGRAYANS CARE FOR TIGRAYAN LIVES? The association is not your personal backyard, you do not block, delete or silence voices that are in need of our help. How are we to know that tomorrow if war erupts in Oromia, Somali, Benshangul, Amhara…regions against the Federal Government that the association will not block us or delete our messages? It was never our place to provide a political solution, our job is to find a way to help save lives everywhere.
I write this short message to professors, doctors, pharmacists, and nurses across Ethiopia. If you’ve chosen to deny the pain and suffering of the people tigray, if you’ve participated in covering up the horrifying reality in Tigray, if you’ve chosen whataboutism or resorted to platitudes like “all lives matter,” instead of reflecting on what is really on the ground, congratulations are in order. You are heroes of a murderous state. You are as culpable as the killers. The professional next to you will remember your conducts and abuse of power regardless of their ethnic background. You could kick out Tigrayans from group chats, from meetings, get them arrested but you should know humanity comes in all ethnicities. Our friends will share with us your actions and inaction in regards to saving Tigrayan lives. There are humans who took an oath to protect all lives regardless of ethnic background or nationality, they will remember the oath they took.
“ If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, be respected while I live and be remembered with affection thereafter”. Many are watching you; they will expose your lack of professionalism and remind you that you are not invincible. You will be remembered as a coward who denied a platform to starving children. Professor Bogale, Tigray will remember you. And not positively.