Medical care for the Kara tribe

If the next hospital is several day’s marches away

by Hiltrud Ritter, Martina Zelt,  2014/06/11

Most humedica on-field campaigns are affected by cultural differences, but on this one the gap is extremely apparent: A commitment at the Kara tribe in the south of Ethiopia. There, the men, women and children wear colorful necklaces, big earrings and hardly any clothes, apart from a large loincloth.

The humedica coordinator and experienced medical staff member Hiltrud Ritter has gone on this long journey to the extreme end of Ethiopia for the second time already. Today she is reporting on impressing experiences from a completely different world:

“Finally we will be on the way. A new medical humedica team is heading for Ethiopia. With a pediatrician, two internists, one general practitioner, nurses and me as a coordinator, we are ideally equipped for medical care at the Kara tribe, which lives isolated in the south of Ethiopia.

The Kara tribe is a small ethnic group in the Omo-Valley with about 1,500 tribe members. They live isolated and quite unaffected by civilization, so far. This also means that there is only limited reasonable and balanced healthcare.

The next hospital is a day journey by car away. For the Kara this means a foot march of several days, which must already be negotiated. And this when they are ill! For me, an unimaginable situation.

We have left for three weeks. The outward and return trip alone takes seven days. The first 600 kilometers we drive on the road with our Jeeps, after that we continue partly on earth roads which eventually don’t exist any longer and we continue on the naked brown soil. Without any doubt, for this on-field work you also need some kind of thirst for adventure.

For the Kara, now it is the time of harvesting. As the country is very dry, the Kara cultivate their fields near the river. Thus, the plants can be watered directly. As there are many crocodiles in this river, you must be very careful at your work. Fieldwork sometimes can be a deathtrap.

During the harvest, the villages are nearly empty because all inhabitants work in the fields. So we pack our medicine boxes and go there. By car and by boat we drive along the river bank and visit the provisory settlements. Most of the time, we open our “clinic” under a tree.

The “clinic”: A blanket on the ground

It doesn’t take long until the first patients arrive. They are happy that we are here. The diseases are various, of which worm infections and backaches rank first, followed by diarrheal diseases and malaria.

Watching the women at their work in the fields and at home, it is no wonder they suffer from backache. The “Sargons” grains, a plant similar to wheat, are directly made to flour by the women. On a big stone, they are being crunched with a smaller stone and all this barehanded and with full physical exertion.

It is a mystery to me, how the young woman Dere is able to work on the fields at all, with her bent leg. We absolutely want to bring her to the next big hospital for an X-ray. Hopefully, she will be able to take some time off her work. Because only like this we can find out, if an operation could help her.

Open-air classroom: health provision

Already in preparation of our journey, we had thought about how to support the Kara by training them. My colleague Lars had the idea of communicating them the topic of “First-aid and wound treatment” by playing scenes. This appealed much to them, because it was easily comprehensible for the Kara. Also the training about the consequences of hygiene and diarrhea, which Annette accompanied with descriptive pictures, had been well accepted.

Retrospectively, I can say that this has been a very moving and impressing time, which has also shown us our limits. We have been able to help more than 800 people, but we have also lost two children. It is difficult to handle this.

Something that has helped us much through all the difficulties was the great relationship within our team. Be it an adventurous river trip to the isolated villages or the clinic under a tree with wild bees, the team held together. I am very grateful for this.

The Kara are very dear to me heart. I want to continue my commitment to improve their conditions, to bring them medical care now and also in the future and to develop schemes in order to help them sustainably. The Kara mustn’t be forgotten. This work can only be done with the help of God and the support of many people. Thank you very much, all those who have accompanied this on-site work with their prayers or with their donations.”

Become part of the help to the Kara. Only this way, on-site work like Hiltrud Ritter’s is possible, only this way humedica can offer the Kara medical care without the efforts of a day’s long foot march. Become part of a help which reaches its goal. Thank you very much!

      humedica e.V.
      keyword Kara Ethiopia
      account nb. 47 47
      bank code 734 500 00
      bank Sparkasse Kaufbeuren

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