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UN to build MEDVAC field hospital in Addis
Boureima Sambo (PhD)

UN to build MEDVAC field hospital in Addis

The United Nations (UN) is planning to build a medical evacuation (MEDVAC) field hospital in Addis Ababa which will be used to treat COVID-19 patients.

The UN has secured a plot of land for the construction of the field hospital around Bole Bulbula area behind the Addis Ababa Bole International Airport. A land clearing work has commenced on the plot of land.

A UN senior diplomat told The Reporter that the field hospital will be used to treat COVID-19 patients that would be airlifted. “The hospital is for UN staff and their dependents, international organizations like the World Bank, IMF and AfDB staff and their dependents and international NGOs staff and their dependents,” the diplomat said.

According to the UN diplomat, as part of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic the UN has considered to build six field hospitals globally. Locations in Ethiopia, South Africa, Kenya, Ghana, Panama and South East Asia have been considered. “A final decision has not been made yet,” he said.

However, The Reporter has confirmed that the UN has already secured a plot of land from the Addis Ababa City Administration and land preparation work has commenced. “The contractor would be an Ethiopian construction firm that will build the hospital in Addis Ababa. It will be built with a pre-fabricated materials which will be imported from Norway,” a source told The Reporter.

Dr. Liya Tadesse, the minister of health, confirmed that there is a plan by the UN to build a field hospital in Addis Ababa. “There has been consultation with us. But the project is at an early stage,” Dr. Liya told The Reporter.

Sources told The Reporter that the UN will be overseeing the overall operations but the hospital will be built by the WFP in collaboration with the WHO and other international NGOs. “The hospital would primarily be used by the UN, international organizations and NGOs but in the long run it would be transferred to the Ethiopian government. The planned hospital would serve the east and North Africa region. The decision has to be made by the secretary general of the UN, António Guterres,” they said.     

Boureima Sambo (PhD), country representative of the WHO, told The Reporter that the WHO will provide technical assistance if a decision is made to build the hospital. “But the project is owned and run by the UN,” Sambo said.  

Sambo said that the WHO has been working with the Ministry of Health and the Ethiopian Public Health Institute on major pillars in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. “I think after South Africa and Senegal, Ethiopia is the third country in Africa to be able to test COVID-19 locally. Then we have been increasing surveillance, training and risk communication and community engagement. Since we have the first confirmed case in Ethiopia 13 of March we have increased all approaches infection prevention and control case management and tracing of contacts to rapidly identify cases and able to contain the pandemic. And we have seen the effort has paid off. We have cases so far we identified all contacts trace them and be able and test them and keep the pandemic under control so far,” he said.