Eritrea’s Roman Catholic Church has condemned the government for seizing and shutting all its health centres in the country.
In a letter to the ministry of health, the church said patients were ordered to go home by security forces, health workers were intimidated and soldiers were positioned at the centres.
The seizure of buildings could not happen in a country where there was the rule of law, the letter added.
The government has not confirmed the seizure of the health facilities, and has not commented on the letter.
The church ran 22 health centres in Eritrea.
Their closure could leave thousands of people, mostly mothers and their children in rural areas, without health care.
The government also provides health services, but critics say they are less accessible and of a lower standard.
In the letter, the church said the government’s action was reminiscent of the former Marxist regime which used brute force in 1982 to confiscate convents, schools and health facilities. Eritrea was part of Ethiopia at the time.
It became an independent state in 1993, and Isaias Afwerki’s has been president since then.
The letter said that the social services the church provided in Eritrea could not be construed as an act of “opposing the government and state.
“The government can say it doesn’t want the services of the church but asking for the property is not right.”
Many analysts believe the government seized the health centres in retaliation to the church’s letter in April which called for reforms to stem the tide of migration to Europe.