"Every individual person we help means hope"

by facharzt.de,  2011/09/20

Dr. Anja Fröhlich from Hanover has travelled to the south of Ethiopia for a period of three weeks in order to offer medical treatment to people at the refugee camps. During her mission, the internist gave an interview to the medical portal Hippokranet, which is run by the medical news service Ärztlicher Nachrichtendienst (änd) and told about her mission.

In the interview "Internist Fröhlich: 'My motivation is the wish to give hope'", she tells about her work at Melkadida near Dolo Ado, about her concerns and above all about her hopes and motivation for taking part in her already third humedica mission.

Dr. Fröhlich, you have been in Dolo Ado for almost two weeks now. What does your work there look like?

Internist Anja Fröhlich from Hanover during medical consultation in Ethiopia. Photo: humedica/Sven Ramones

In cooperation with a local governmental organisation we offer medical treatment at the Health Center at one of the four refugee camps in Dolo Ado, close to the border to Somalia.

Currently, there are four refugee camps and a transit camp, where a total of 120,000 persons have found shelter. At Melkadida, the camp we are working at, there are currently almost 40,000 refugees. A medical care system is still in its development phase, but thanks to the governmental organisation it has been organised quite well so far.

There is a Health Center, which partly consists of solid walls, partly of tent canvas. It is fairly well equipped for offering first medical aid. We even have the possibility of implementing laboratory tests.

Could you describe your daily routine to us?

We get up at sunrise, at six o'clock. After breakfast we drive a distance of 70 kilometres to the refugee camp - a drive of one hour and half on dirt roads.

We arrive at the camp at about half past eight and our consultation time begins. Later on we have quite a long lunch break that lasts until 3pm; unfortunately, we cannot change that. Then we continue our treatment until 5pm.

In the evening we have to leave on time, as, due to safety reasons, we must be back at our accommodation in Dolo Ado before it gets dark.

What are your consultation hours at the refugee camp like?

People living at the camp need to register if they want to see our doctors. They are given a card that states their refugee number. Then they attend us, the doctors, at the treatment rooms and we examine them.

We work together with well-trained, local medical staff members, who also act as interpreters. After examining the patients we give them corresponding prescriptions and they can exchange their prescriptions for the drugs they need at the pharmacy.

How would you describe the state of health your patients are in?

That depends. At the moment we are three treating doctors. My colleague, who examines children below the age of five, has seen many terrible things.

"It is simply the wish to give hope". Photo: humedica/Sven Ramones

The young children are partly suffering from severe undernutrition and, correspondingly, they are severely ill.

Older children, too, often suffer from relatively severe diseases, but most of them are no longer severely undernourished. In the meantime, the situation for our adult patients has improved.

With them, it now almost feels like a normal, general consultation hour. They mostly suffer from infectious diseases.

Don't you sometimes feel helpless in face of all the misery?

We need to remind ourselves that we cannot save the whole world. But that's not what we’ve come here for. We can always only help a few persons - but every person we can help means a little hope for the people at the refugee camp. The people living here know that they haven't been forgotten by the rest of the world.

With every person we can help, the people's trust in our work increases. They realise that changes take place. Our task is mainly to bring hope to the people. Of course we can also save lives by means of antibiotics or drip infusions. But the most important task we have is to show the people: you haven't been forgotten.

You are working in an area close to the border to Somalia. This is a dangerous region. Are you afraid?

Of course. If it were different, it wouldn't be normal. We cannot simply ignore the dangers. Here in the border region the Ethiopian army fights against the Al Shabab, the Somali terror fighters who are trying to invade Ethiopia.

It has been fairly quiet most of the time, but after the end of Ramadan we could observe the flashes of gunfire at the horizon. During the past two nights we also heard machine gun shots and it has been officially admitted that the fights are approaching the border.

This is not your first mission in a conflict area. You have also been on humedica mission in Sudan and Bangladesh. What is your motivation?

It is simply the wish to give hope, to show the people that they have not been forgotten.

What is the people's reaction to your help?

They are incredibly friendly and grateful. They smile when we can help them. Although, due to language barriers, we can only communicate using hand gestures, this kind of non-verbal communication is enough.

Which experiences will you take back home with you from your mission in Ethiopia?

During the past few weeks here I have learned more than during five years in Germany.

Thank you, dear Anja, for your commitment. Photo: humedica/Sven Ramones

I will take with me the knowledge that we cannot change the world, but that for moving a mountain you have to start with the first stone. This expression is not my own invention. But we have often used it within our team in order to keep up motivation.

We haven't been here for a long time, but I think that we have removed the first few stones from a huge mountain and have therefore cleared the way for the next teams in order to facilitate their work here at least to some degree.

Source: www.facharzt.de

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