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Health | Science - Education

First medical school in Eritrea opens

afrol News, 15 March - In the eleven years that have passed since Eritrea's independence, there has been no national service to educate health personnel. Today, however, the Eritrean Ministry of Health announced the opening of the Orotta School of Medicine in Asmara, which already has 32 students.

The Eritrean Ministry of Health in a press release today said that the country's first-ever medical school finally had been established in Asmara. The opening followed "more than a year of hard work by Eritrean and expatriate professors and health experts, with the full participation of the Eritrean Ministry of Health," the statement said.

The School of Medicine already admitted its first students on 16 February, one month before the official opening. As the first class entry, 32 students have been admitted to the program and of these 6 are women, the Asmara Ministry says.

A majority of the admitted students previously had attended three years of university studies - majoring in biology, chemistry, pharmacy or nursing - and the rest have completed their undergraduate studies in the sciences at the University of Asmara. The medical training at the new school is for six years and graduates shall earn Doctorate in Medicine (M.D.) degrees upon completion of their studies from the Orotta School of Medicine.

According to the Ministry, the Orotta school of Medicine Faculty is composed of a number of expatriates and Eritrean professors with various medical specialties. The school is administered by a Dean, Associate Dean, Dean of Academic, Students, and Research Affairs and an Administrator. The school is housed in the Orotta Hospital compound.

The establishment of the Orotta School to a certain degree has depended on the assistance on foreign professionals and institutions of higher learning from a number of countries. According to the Asmara Ministry, "renowned universities, their esteemed professors and representatives, are sharing their expertise and instructional materials, and have started faculty and student exchange initiatives."

The University of Santa Clara in Cuba has been a special partner in the establishment of the Orotta School. Cuba during decades has been a key cooperation partner for many African countries in terms of developing a public health sector. The Cuban partners received "special thanks" from the Eritrean Ministry of Health.

- It is the mission of the School to develop academically sound, socially responsible, and clinically competent cadre of medical doctors out of which future managers of health services, researchers, and caregivers are produced, according to the official statement. "The ultimate goal is to provide the Eritrean community with the best health delivery services they deserve."

According to the Ministry, "this is just a start, though a significant step. We understand full well that there will be many challenges ahead in reaching our ultimate goals."

Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993 and the young country's attempt to construct a social services infrastructure from scratch has been interrupted by the recent border war with Ethiopia. Health services remain very poorly developed, with only one doctor for each 50,000 Eritrean. Life expectance is at 51 years and the infant mortality rate is at 116 per 1000.

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