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The International Year of Health and Care Workers

By Dr. Fikrejesus Amahazion

*Note: the following is a collection of brief thoughts on recent happenings and issues related to Eritrea.

1. The International Year of Health and Care Workers

This year, 2021, is officially recognized by the global community as the International Year of Health and Care Workers (IYHCW). The original decision came late last year when the World Health Organization (WHO) and its affiliated bodies made the designation in recognition of health and care workers’ dedication to providing care during and despite the COVID- 19 pandemic that has challenged health systems worldwide. Health and care workers include all those engaged in health services, public health and related areas, as well as those providing support to these activities. This broad category of workers encompasses health professionals such as doctors, nurses, midwives, pharmacists, and physiotherapists, in addition to allied health professionals, such as mental health workers, social care workers, occupational health workers, radiographers, laboratory workers, and others.

It is worth noting that the health and care sector not only helps to ensure the health, safety, rights, and protection of individuals and communities, it is also essential to development, provides a significant boost to the economy, and acts as a multiplier of economic growth. Furthermore, the health and care sector is also a major employer of women and helps to promote gender equality, which is generally regarded as an important social goal. For instance, data from the International Labor Organization (ILO) illustrates that globally, “women make up 70% of those employed in the health sector and, based on data available for close to 100 countries, 72% of skilled health occupations.”

Here in Eritrea, from as far back as the independence struggle, health and care workers have been essential parts of the society and vital cogs within the general community. During the long struggle, barefoot doctors and other health workers provided care and support to refugees, civilians, and of course formed a critical part of the liberation forces. More recently, without the countless skilled, competent, and committed health and care workers across the country, few, if not absolutely none, of Eritrea’s significant achievements in health-related developments – such as the fact that it was one of the few countries in the developing world that entered the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals period having achieved most of the Millennium Development Goals targets on health – would have been possible. Of course, during the past year our nation’s health and care workers have remained at the forefront of the challenging fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, exhibiting great heroism, professionalism, and dedication. Ultimately, the fact that Eritrea, notwithstanding the recent and worrying increase in positive cases, has had a generally successful overall response to the pandemic is to a considerable degree down to the sheer commitment and dedication of its health and care workers.

As we begin a new year and usher in the IYHCW, we should all take a brief moment to reflect upon and show genuine appreciation for how our health and care workers have been so professional and dedicated to promoting the health, care, and well-being of all, particularly during this past year. Moreover, in addition to recognition and praise for the efforts of health and care workers, the IYHCW offers us, as a society, an opportunity to draw our attention to the need to tackle the persistent challenges that they face and to make greater investments to support them. Thus, for example, renewed and expanded investments can be made in: education and training; establishing more medical, dental, and health sciences facilities and schools; broadening linkages with foreign partners and continuing professional development; improving working conditions; and ensuring the well-being and occupational safety of all our health and care workers. Additionally, more attention and focus can be placed upon our health care infrastructure (from primary to tertiary levels), as well as those working within it, in order to ensure access and enhanced quality delivery of services for all citizens.

2. Congratulations to Esayas Abraham, Head of ENFF…

Several days ago it was announced that Eritrea’s Esayas Abraham Weldeyesus will be one of the officials at the 6th edition of the Total African Nations Championship (CHAN). Esayas, who is a board member of the Council of East and Central Africa Football Associations, is among the CHAN Organizing Committee members.

The upcoming CHAN tournament, originally scheduled for 2020, features 16 countries separated into four groups. Not to be confused with the larger Africa Cup of Nations, the CHAN tournament is a recent creation, created in 2007 and with the first competition held in 2009. CHAN rules stipulate that players participating in the competition must be based in their domestic leagues. This year’s competition will run from 16 January to 7 February, with matches being played in three different Cameroonian cities:

Yaoundé, Douala, and Limbe. Morocco, scheduled to compete in Group C, are the reigning CHAN champions.

With little doubt, the selection of Esayas to participate in the CHAN is a great personal and individual achievement. At the same time, it is also something that we, as Eritreans, can cherish and be proud of: he is representing us all and flying the flag high. Moreover, what also makes his selection especially important is that it can help to grow and develop our local game, particularly in terms of contributing to professionalization, the improvement of levels of officiating, and raising technical standards.

Notably, Esayas, who has a long history and extensive background in local football, is also President of the Eritrea National Football Federation. The ENFF, which was founded in 1996, officially joined FIFA, football’s governing body, and the Confederation of African Football, which oversees football on the continent, in 1998. Locally, the ENFF works to improve the development and growth of the game, organizes the Eritrean Premier League competition, and oversees the country’s various national football teams.

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