A day in an Ethiopian prison – seeing the results of great aid work

by Annett Michael/SRI, 2009/03/23

humedica volunteer Annett Michael had the opportunity to accompany a team of doctors for a day's visit to an Ethiopian prison. In co-operation with the partner organization Prison Fellowship, the German doctors provided much-needed treatment for a considerable number of inmates.

Dr. Gabriel Labitzke treats inmates free of charge, of course. Photo: humedica/Annett Michael

'We leave at 6.30 in the morning in two minibuses. We, that's humedica doctors Dr. Gunter Müller and his son, student of medicine Raphael Müller from Ilmenau, Dr. Gabriel Labitzke from Dresden, a team of discipleship trainees from the organization Youth With A mission (YWAM) who are completing three-months practical training in Ethiopia, Seifu, the director of Prison Fellowship Ethiopia, humedica volunteer Susanne Merkel with her son Jonathan, our interpreter, the driver and myself.

Our destination is the prison in Fiche, around 2 hours drive from Addis Abeba. Not long into our journey, our minibus is out of water. We stop and fill up the water tank from our drinking water supplies. We continue. After some time, we have to stop for another refill. We continue with reduced speed and finally arrive, somewhat behind schedule, in Fiche at 10.30.

We are all allowed into the prison without any problems. A watch tower and an armed guard seems to be all there is in terms of prison security. Since it's the doctors' third visit to Fiche, they know their way about and can get started without any further delay. Patients are already queuing up in the prison yard and Gunter and Gabriel begin with the treatment, while Raphael takes care of the dispensary.

Dr. Gunter Müller has paid several visits to the Fiche prison during his mission in Ethiopia. Photo: humedica/Annett Michael

Seifu invites me for a tour of the premises, providing me with a glimpse of the really important work carried out by Prison Fellowship Ethiopia. First we inspect the women's ward, which was constructed and furnished by Prison Fellowship Ethiopia. It's a well-lit and clean room fitted with bunk beds. Up to a certain age, the children of female inmates stay with their mothers in the prison.

Prison Fellowship Ethiopia also runs a small pre-school where the children are taught a variety of subjects, including English. Furthermore, the organization has provided funding for an extra kitchen and a cook exclusively for the benefit of the women and children. They get a balanced diet and the current week's menu is displayed on the wall.

The makeshift dispensary is an important part of the treatment. Photo: humedica/Annett Michael

After this we also take a look at the men's ward. What a difference compared to the women's ward! Some 700 inmates are crowded into a cramped, dark space. That's also because, here as elsewhere, the prison's male population is much bigger than the female one. A few men have had the privilege of being allowed to take their own looms along into the prison. In a roofed shelter they weave cloths of the kind worn by Ethiopian women, which their relatives can then sell outside the prison.

We join the doctors, who have already treated a considerable number of patients. Gastro-intestinal deseases, skin deseases or worms are particularly frequent, but also very painful muscle inflammations, and of course there are also many HIV infected inmates. We also hand out some pairs of glasses that we brought along. At noon we have a lunch break with some some rolls and bananas.

After the break, the doctors continue their work until 3 p.m. Finally, also a few guards and employees are examined and treated. Then it's time for the return journey - thank God without any further incidents – back to Addis Abeba.

Dear friends and sponsors, dear visitors: We would like to be able to continue carrying out missions in the future such as the one described above. Hundreds of people in many countries need our help. Please support the missions of our doctors' teams with a specific donation.

humedica e. V.
Reference "Medical Teams"
Account 47 47
BLZ 734 500 00
Sparkasse Kaufbeuren

Annett Michael (right) and Susanne Merkel with the 'prison children' from Fiche. Photo: humedica

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