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CUAMM expresses anxiety over Ethiopia’s Oromia disturbances.

CUAMM, an Italian non-governmental organisation, known as “Doctors with Africa” has expressed anxiety concerning the situation of the Oromia region of Ethiopia in the wake of a deadly stampede that killed about 55 persons.

The deaths occurred early this month when Ethiopian Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at a huge crowd attending the Oromo religious annual festival known as Irreecha in the town of Bishoftu, some 40km from the capital Addis Ababa. The massive stampede that resulted saw some people falling into nearby ditches or off a cliff into the nearby lake.

The Oromo People celebrate Irreecha to thank God for the blessings and mercies they have received throughout the previous year. As the festival was underway, some sections of the crowd started shouting anti-government slogans and making anti-government gestures that made police nervous. The government of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn has declared a three-days mourning period and is blaming the opposition and “anti-peace elements” for the deaths.

“Doctors with Africa, CUAMM is closely following the events related to the protests in the Oromia region, which erupted Sunday, 2 October and which have not yet completely subsided … 52 people [died], according to government sources while [local] press sources said over 300 people were killed in the stampede,” CUAMM said in a statement made available to Vatican Radio’s Africa Service.

CUAMM is composed of volunteers and supporters of Doctors with Africa. It is a medical mission started by the Italian Catholic Diocese of Padua, 65 years ago. The NGO is considered a leading medical organisation that focusses mainly on working with sub-Saharan Africa and is to be found in 7 African countries, namely, Angola, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. The late Fr Luigi Mazzucato is credited as the man behind CUAMM’s success and longevity. CUAMM says its mission is to improve the wellbeing and health of vulnerable communities in Africa.

In Ethiopia, Doctors with Africa –CUAMM has a staff of 28 comprising 11 expatriates and 17 Ethiopians. The Wolisso Hospital of St Luke, situated in the Oromia region is a CUAMM facility with 200 beds capacity. In the statement released Friday, CUAMM said it was experiencing disruptions to services as a result of the disturbances.

©Alleastafrica and Reuters

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