Grief struck the Eritrean community in Melbourne following the sudden death of Hafeez Saaddin Mohamed Badlay, one of its most esteemed members. Hafeez Saaddin passed away on the 4th of November 2021, and his body was laid to rest two days later amid a somber mood and due solidarity with the bereaved family. The burial ceremony was attended by a large number of Eritreans who wished to pay their final farewell to the indomitable Hafeez Saaddin, an Eritrean national icon. This was testament to his tireless services to the Eritrean communities in general and his dedication to the Eritrean struggle for independence in particular.
As told by his colleagues in the struggle and those who knew him more personally, Hafeez joined the ranks and file of the Eritrean armed struggle in 1965. He served the liberation movement in various capacities, but he was most particularly known for his services as a field doctor – a mission he accomplished with great professional skill and a humanist tradition. I will leave the details of his contribution to the Eritrean national struggle for independence to his colleagues perhaps as they might be better placed to do that.
My focus on this brief eulogy rather is to describe Hafeez’s services, as a health professional, to Eritreans in Kassala. Back then, Hafeez worked at the only Eritrean hospital established by the late Saleh Sabbe. As a volunteer at this hospital during the 1980s, Hafeez served the sick with full dedication and without any favoritism. He approached his work from a purely humanitarian angle, and there was no place for politics in that.
What fascinated me most about his work at Sabbe’s hospital was when an Eritrean mother of a 7-year-old child passed away. The child was sick with malaria at the same time as her mother was gravely-ill before the latter ultimately died due to complications during surgery. The father of the child was working in Khartoum at the time, so the child and her siblings were left without parental care. Whilst the family was mourning the loss of their mother, Hafeez took full care of the sick child. He would come to the family’s house every morning and take the child to the hospital for treatment. He would carry the little girl on his back and sometimes on his shoulders to and from the hospital. He continued his support to the family until the customary grief period ended. I was able to pay close attention to the situation because the child’s two older brothers were my classmates at the time. Indeed, I telephoned one of them (who is now an accomplished surgeon in Canada) to inform him of the passing of Hafeez Saaddin. Understandably, he couldn’t fully remember the support of Hafeez to his family all these years ago because of the tragedy of the situation. However, he said his mother had full access to the Egyptian doctors who were working at Sabbe’s hospital and that she was able to receive the necessary care. My friend also added it could have been most likely Hafeez who had connected the family with the doctors.
That in a few words is how Hafeez related with people till the end. He belongs to a different class of people, those who sacrifice everything for others. A person like Hafeez Saaddin deserves to be acknowledged and appreciated by Eritreans (and others).
Rest in Peace Hafeez Saaddin Mohamed Badlay!