Project Stories:

A review by humedica practitioner Anna Müller

„The Kara intervention has it´s own special challenges.“

by Anna Müller, 2017/12/13

Together with five other humedica volunteers the practitioner Anna Müller went to South Ethiopia in October to provide medical care for the members of the Kara tribe, who still live largely untouched by civilization. In the following personal report she tells you, with which challenges and African pecularities she had to deal during her two weeks intervention:

„Voluntarily I took over the task to write the field report of this year´s Kara intervention in Dus in the Ethiopian Omo Valley. But how to begin? While I am sitting here in the dreary grey German winter, a pot of tea on my lap and thick woolen socks on my feet, the vast Ethiopian steppe, the green hills with bleating goats and the wooden huts on the horizon seem so incredibly far away. Have I really been there? It feels like I am writing about someone else who has taken on the adventure to travel far away to the tribe of the Kara just one month ago.

Das Volk der Kara lebt ursprünglich und abseits der modernen Zivilisation im Süden von Äthiopien

The Kara tribe lives a very simple rustic life away from the modern civilization in the South of Ethiopia. Photo: humedica

It is a totally different world, which you visit during this humedica intervention. A beautiful, colourful, hard, sorrowful, foreign world – you have to accept these discrepancies, if you arrive there full of West European drive and motivation for good deeds.

Consideration and mindfulness – the importance of a good team

It was my first intervention for humedica. For just one year now I have worked as a practitioner in an average hospital with average patients and average tasks. Therefore it was particularly helpful and important for me to work in such an experienced strong team. Johanna was a great exchange partner for discussing medical topics and the typical insecurities of junior doctors. Johannes provided the back-up of an experienced Africa veteran, who was willing to help us anytime and without restrictions with word and deed as both involuntary senior physician and friend.

Our child nurse Annerose acted as an irreplaceable expert on paediatrics as well as a caring mother, for example regarding the punctual administration of our Malaria prophylaxis. Due to her broad experience gained in first-aid stations Theresa was a reliable first-aid medical worker during all emergency surgery. Last but not least the joyful Marietta brought always about good cheer and was, as a surgical nurse, already used to the bloody operational procedures of the traditional Kara healer.

But the most we all could learn from our coordinator and friend Trudy – with regard to medical, cultural as well as spiritual matters. Whether shearing fundus infected heads and dying them with antibacterial solutions, treating bloody diarrhoea or the common plagues „back pain“ or „pain all over the body“ - Trudy always had a reliable secret formula, tailored to the special needs and local conditions of the Kara.

humedica coordinator Trudy Ritter and physician Anna Müller in front of the small health care station for the Kara in Dus. Photo: humedica

Rigorous, devoted and caring Trudy bravely keeps together the horde of about 20 young Ethiopians from 20 to 40 years old, each of them from a different tribal culture and religious background. From time to time, the African understanding of time and some male pigheads can easily drive you to despair. But in the end it is always Trudy and her never-ending commitment as well as her very special relationship with both the tribe of the Kara and the Ethiopian staff, which makes this intervention in Dus possible. The people´s trust in our foreign medical team is based on the trust in our coordinator – not for nothing a small group of little girls as well as boys in Dus are already named after „Trudy“.

I have a reason to talk so expensively about our team structure: on the one hand I would like to thank my colleagues for the great cooperation, on the other hand I would like to stress the importance of a good team atmosphere and collaboration in a relief project such as the one at the Kara. Most certainly this is a key element for every intervention, but in Dus a team has to face very particular cultural, political and personal challenges, which demand mutual consideration and thoughtfulness.

Practicing renunciation and Ethiopian serenity

Above all, work on site in general demands to be flexible and to adapt to the local realities. If for example, even so the rainy season has already finished, heavy rains occur and you are stuck again in the mud despite your four-wheel drive. If you, as an ambitious volunteer, are eager to get started, want to drive into the village to do good deeds! But Mother Nature in Africa thwarts our plans time and again and so one time we were stuck in our accommodation for two days in a row.

Then you have to practice Ethiopian serenity, get creative and spend the time with improvised sewing classes for the local nurses. Or with archiving patient files, tidying the pharmacy or training ultrasound examinations, if not, like one time, the generator breaks down and there is no electricity available to operate the device. In that case two employees had to drive about 190 kilometers to the next city Jinka to buy new batteries for the generator. Only to determine after their return that the real problem was caused by a defective starter. Hakuna Matata - take everything as it comes and make the best of it.

Gemeinsam mit dem lokalen Team behandelte das Einsatzteam von humedica Kranke und Verletzte Mitglieder des Kara-Stamms.

Together with the local team the medical intervention team of humedica treats ill and injured members of the Kara tribe. Photo: humedica

We also learned to practice renunciation during our intervention at the Kara. No running water was available. The water for the shower, for washing and drinking came from the river Omo and had to be treated with a traditional root and the drinking water system „Paul“ in order to become drinkable. We ate with your hands, we washed our clothes once a week and electricity depended on the already mentioned generator, which was everything but reliable.

The Kara intervention has it´s own very special challenges. If you allow for it, in these two weeks you can learn to see beyond the rose-colored glasses, you are wearing in the beginning due to your elation and excitement. Then you suddenly see a world filled with tribal feuds, worries about the next harvests and cultural tensions. You live through storms and heavy rains, which put you on the mercy of nature and God´s will. And you experience a deep helplessness, when you are not able to save a little girl in a coma, even if you tried everything – the daughter of people, you have grown so fond of in only so few days.

The Kara intervention is so much more than just a normal short-term appointment. It makes heavy demands on you, it requires a lot, sometimes it makes you doubt. But it also gives a lot back and expands, perhaps even changes, your own horizon.

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