Medical field work with the Kara people in South Ethiopia

Medical volunteer Susanne Hausmann reports after her return

by Susanne Hausmann, 2012/10/06

“On September 9th our team of six set out for a three week medical aid trip to a tribe living in the south of Ethiopia. Equipped with a tent, a few clothes suitable for “the bush” and tons of mosquito spray we went on this adventure, not knowing what was awaiting us.

Our humedica team was composed of Mechthild Wortmann (general practitioner), Mehrdad Thesker (anaesthesist), Ruth Lagies („freshly-minted doctor“, specialist training in paediatrics), Hiltrud Ritter (nurse), Esther Waßmuth (nurse) and me, Susanne Hausmann (medical student).

Our work was supported and coordinated by a very committed team of missionaries of the SOA-Ministries (South Omo Arise), who have been living in Ethiopia since 2009. These are two German families who have renounced on a comfortable life in Germany in order to share their Christian faith and to give practical support to the local people, for example in their fight against infant mortality.

From the capital, Addis Abeba, a two day journey with an off-road vehicle took us to the Omo area situated in the south west of Ethiopia, close to the boarder with Sudan and Kenya. The area is very remote, crossed only by some dirt roads, so that we had a bumpy but also funny drive there.

The Kara, a tribe of about 2.000 people, have a very simple and natural way of life. They live in wood and straw huts without electricity and running water. The nearby river Omo allows them to cultivate land and raise some cattle, but also brings about unpleasant encounters with crocodiles.

Although the Kara are a very cheerful and modest people, they suffer severely from the lack of medical care in the south of Ethiopia. In order to reach the closest town they have to walk for several days, which is virtually impossible for a seriously ill person. There is a health post in the main village of the Kara, yet it is very poorly equipped and the local health worker is not sufficiently trained.

Therefore, illnesses like measles, respiratory infections and diarrhoea, which are preventable in our home country, bring death to many of the tribe people. Especially the children are the victims of this lack of medical care. About 35-40 per cent of them don’t reach the age of 6. Adults too only have a low life expectancy and rarely become older than 50.

Our humedica team set up a makeshift health post in the three Kara villages of Duss, Labuk and Korcho. We tried to use our capacities in the most reasonable and effective way. We also involved local helpers to supply patients with medicine and improve the sustainability of our work.

Our partners of SOA-Ministries had done excellent preparations for our work and engaged well-educated young Kara men, who spoke English and the tribal language, as translators for us. Thus, we were able within these three weeks to treat 753 people altogether who mainly suffered from worm infections, gastritis, headaches, pains in the back and skin diseases.

As the south of Ethiopia is part of a malaria risk area, our doctors carried out a malaria test whenever a patient had fever and when the result was positive, they were able to treat the disease with the appropriate medication. Two emergency cases - a woman with pregnancy complications and a patient with an umbilical hernia - were taken to the closest hospital by a member of the long-term missionary team in order to be given adequate operational treatment there.

Although we got to know the Kara as very hospitable and hearty people, their traditional way of life has some aspects that are hardly reconcilable with our western values and that left us very dismayed.

Unfortunately, circumcision is still carried out on boys between six and eight, which, due to a lack of sterility and appropriate anatomical knowledge, often leads to inflammations and mutilations of their penis. We were very affected by the fate of these frightened and ashamed boys and we tried our best to treat their wounds effectively at least afterwards.

With this trip, we as humedica team members were given the opportunity not only to deliver medical aid, but also to gain inestimable personal experiences. We were invited to traditional celebrations by the tribal elders, were allowed to taste Kara coffee and, since our camp was so close to their main village, were able to get an impression of the everyday life of these interesting people.

We would like to give heartfelt thanks to Andi, Ann-Marie, Roland and Carmen from the SOA-Ministries for the great time we had in Ethiopia: with your preparations and follow-up care you made successful work possible for us and you are a great example of people who do not only preach Christian charity but live it every day.

I would also like to give my personal thanks to my humedica team: I really enjoyed working with you. The positive atmosphere and open-mindedness in our team made it possible to work in this challenging environment and to profit from the personal strengths of every team member."

The Kara are part of a tribe whose future and existence is not secure due to untreated diseases and difficult living conditions in general. With a contribution in form of a donation you can help that these people, living in hard circumstances, can at least receive medical care.

Please help us to secure the future of the forgotten people of the Kara.Thank you very much.

      humedica e. V.
      Reference „Kara Ethiopia
      Account 47 47
      Bank Code 734 500 00
      Sparkasse Kaufbeuren

      SWIFT-Code: BYLA DE M1 KFB
      IBAN: DE35734500000000004747

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