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Provision of Health Services in Tessenay

Milka Teklom

The foundation of Eritrea’s healthcare system was laid during the armed struggle for independence. In the early 1970s, the EPLF had a single mobile clinic, and the vast majority of the people had no access to modern healthcare facilities.

However, by the late 1978, the EPLF had developed a comprehensive healthcare service that treated 1.6 million patients per year. Rooted in the EPLF’s principle of self-reliance, innovative solutions had to be found to address problems associated with giving healthcare services under the adverse circumstances. To reach populations in remote areas mobile clinics were created, and to tackle shortage of medical workers, training was given to members of local communities to serve as healthcare workers.

Eritrea is one of the countries that have achieved the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in health, and child health in particular. Maternal, infant and child mortality rates have significantly dropped, and pregnant women are now a lot keener to visit healthcare facilities, which has resulted in an increased use of antenatal care (ANC) and birth attendance by skilled staff. Geographic coverage of immunization has risen, the transmission rate of communicable diseases such as HIV/Aids and malaria are close to zero while polio has been totally eradicated. These can be attributed to the high priority given to healthcare and education as well as the adoption of innovative multi-sectoral approaches to health.

Eritrea has achieved remarkable progress in key health indicators, progress which has also generally been seen in other sectors such as water, sanitation and education. Tessenay Hospital is a great example of the government’s commitment to improving access to health care in all corners of the country, improving the quality of services by providing training to health workers and by monitoring activities and responding to the increase in non-communicable diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and injuries while continuing the fight against communicable diseases.

Mr. Yonas Yohannes

Mr. Yonas Yohannes, Head of Finance at Tessenay Hospital, said that the hospital has made tremendous progress from its humble beginnings. For many years, the hospital has been serving patients from Tessenay subzone as well as the villages surrounding it. When community hospitals were built in some of the villages, the number of patients served by the hospital gradually dropped, giving much needed relief to the hospital and its medical workers.


The number of health workers at Tessenay Hospital has tripled over the years, especially after Orotta College of Medicine and Health Sciences began its operations. Following the recruitment of graduates of the medical school and the introduction of new equipment, the hospital’s capacity has been enhanced. Patients that used to be referred to the national referral hospitals in Asmara are now treated at Tessenay Hospital, which is equipped to do blood chemistry, X-ray, cardiac cases, and physiotherapy. New wards, including surgical, dental, optometry, midwifery, and psychiatry, have been opened.

Health workers in the newly formed ward for non-communicable diseases are working to raise the awareness of the society about non-communicable diseases and ways to prevent them through healthy diet and physical exercise.

Mr. Gebrehiwet Tekeste

Mr. Gebrehiwet Tekeste, Administrator of the Office of the Ministry of Health in Tessenay subzone, said that their office recognizes the involvement of communities in rural areas in and around Tessenay subzone as an effective and affordable way of preventing diseases and promoting primary health care. Community involvement in the delivery of health service has brought services closer to the community, and the communities’ awareness about the importance of healthcare facilities has been raised, resulting in improved health-seeking behaviors. For example, community involvement has been critical for the success of immunization campaigns, which are entry points for maternal and child health interventions. Other interventions include Community Integrated Management of Childhood Illness and Community-Based Therapeutic Feeding, the National Malaria Control Program and the HIV and AIDS Program.

The community’s involvement has also removed barriers to the dissemination of information on health and has reinforced the community’s sense of belonging and the desire to contribute towards the common good. Community members take initiatives to clean the compound of the hospital and positively respond to requests by the hospital for their involvement in other initiatives.

Health workers make regular visits around the villages in Tessenay subzone to disseminate information on perennial diseases such as malaria and how to prevent them and to make sure mosquito nets are used properly. Tessenay’s location makes it vulnerable to infection by diseases such as yellow fever that can easily come across the national borders. To mitigate this, health workers are always alert and, if needed, go house to house to check the occurrence of communicable diseases and ensure the safety of the communities.

In Tessenay subzone, there are three clinics, one healthcare center, and one hospital serving almost 87,269 people in the subzone and surrounding villages. There are about 38 barefoot doctors and nurses who take care of the healthcare needs of people in remote villages.

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