Ethiopia: Medical Team Helps in Different Areas of Country – Part 1

by Steffen Richter,  2007/12/19

Ethiopia is still considered one of the poorest countries on the planet. Food staples are as hard to come by as basic medical care – ground enough for a humedica medical team to visit this country for a second time this year. Susanne Merkel, manager of the medical team, describes in a moving account the difficult and occasionally life-threatening conditions in this large country:

"Four women accompanied me this time, a true “girl power” team! Included, were doctors Britta Merten from Düsseldorf (surgeon), Maja Norys from Kempten (internist) and Ulrike Weishaar from Freising (radiologist), as well as Ursula Hacker from Stuttgart, a nurse. For a short while Matthias Franke from Ottendorf-Okrilla joined us. He was with us on the previous assignment and developed a love for Ethiopia. He accompanied us for a week and, like last time, was busy taking photographs.

The team financed the assignment themselves, and took vacations in order to help in Ethiopia. Humedica organized the trip and financed the medicine. Included on our assignment were Addis Abeba (1 day) at the Mercato Street Children’s Project from the Organization "Bethany Children's Village" (BCV), Awasa – Finincha (1 week) at the Harvest Church School and Debre Zeit (1 day) at the Bole Fana School from the BCV Project families.


Millenium party in the renovated Mercato building.

On the first day, families from the Mercato Project in Addis Abeba with health problems were handled - around 50 people from 18 families. We also saw the newly renovated rooms, which were now protected against the heat, cold and sound; no pure corrugated metal any more. The cooks were also happy because new shelves and cupboards were added to the kitchen. Now all they need is a refrigerator. Ethiopia still goes by the Julian calendar, and so on the 11th of September, the Ethiopian millennium - a huge celebration for the entire country - was celebrated in the new rooms.


The next day we traveled for five hours to Finincha. The school, whose land we also lived on, is about 20 kilometers away from the regional capital Awasa in the region Sidamo. There, the same-named language Sidamo and the national language Amharisch are spoken. The region is fertile, and the primary crops are coffee, Enset (false banana) and various fruits. These, along with Injera, a flatbread made from local grains, comprise the basic food staples. The false banana, because of its starchy nature, is used to make different types of dishes, such as porridge and bread. Despite the regions fertility there is still a lot of poverty. There are around 700 children attending the school we visited, ranging in age from pre-school to 8th grade. About 200 of them come from such poor families that they cannot afford the yearly school fee of approximately 5 Euro, and must have the fee waived. We were able to examine 600 of these children and treat those which needed attention. We were given a classroom to use and local translators, mostly the teachers but also the director, made themselves available in order to help with the language differences.

In the afternoons we treated around 500 sick people from the area. Our target group was mainly that of women, children, and severely ill people. From the daily ever-growing line of patients (at the end up to 300) waiting to be seen, it was difficult to decide who to examine. The nearest public clinic is twenty kilometers away in Awasa, and many can’t afford the transportation costs. Most of the examinations must be paid for, with the exception of Aids, TBC and Malaria, which have programs established to help offset the costs. Despite governmental efforts to help, the region is far away from widespread medical care. On average in Ethiopia, for every one doctor there are 33,000 patients, compared to Germany where it is 1 to 350. Many people have to walk for hours in order to be able to receive any kind of medical treatment whatsoever."

In a few days we will be bringing you the second part of the feature from Susanne Merkel. Please visit us again soon.

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