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Ethiopia’s refusal to restore communication threatens public health

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has condemned Ethiopia’s government-imposed shutdown of internet and phone services in western Oromia as it has caused significant difficulty in monitoring outbreaks of the disease and providing adequate support.

In their statement they note;

“The government’s refusal to restore phone and network access makes it likely that key information is not reaching everyone, including those vital to control efforts in western Oromia —health care workers and humanitarian organisations".

Ethiopia had its first outbreak of coronavirus on 13 March in Western Oromia; prior to this, Ethiopia’s military had fought against a rebel force in the region. This conflict has left access to healthcare severely limited, especially in rural areas.

HRW has praised Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed for ensuring “the Ministry of Health provides regular updates, added sign language to its promotional materials, and appealed for calm following reports of discrimination and harassment of foreigners”. However maintained the importance of providing transparency and ending the internet and phone service blackout.

Read HRW statement here.

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