ETHIOPIAN MEDICAL PROJECT (EMP) -2015
Our 2015 month long trip to Ethiopia, in February/ March, was anticipated with our usual excitement, and enthusiasm. This was our 5th successive working trip to Buccama Clinic, although our association with Ethiopia goes back to 2007. The run up to departure was busy, with a wonderful rush of events and interest.
This year, we were being accompanied by Amanda Dunn, who was given a terrific send off by her friends and family. “The Dignity Dance” led by Amanda, and her team, with 200 guests, held just before we left, in a Glasgow church hall, made a huge contribution to our efforts in supporting the Clinic. Amanda is a qualified and working oncology nurse, and brought an impressive and professional edge to the visit. She, amazingly, took 3 weeks of her own precious NHS leave to accompany this trip. She did agree that, although it is possible to innovate, it is not really possible to apply all the Western standards that would be considered mandatory in the UK.
Our exuberant and generous welcome to the Clinic is now reminiscent of a huge family reunion, as we are so familiar with the clinic staff. Also, many of the mothers that have been helped in the past, had been gathered in from the wilds to greet us. The other lovely surprise was to see five or six of the babies delivered this time last year, and who had come in with their mums, who wanted to show off their bright and active one year olds.
After our long day of travel, and our lovely greetings, we were absorbed back into the life of the clinic. It is an active, busy, functioning Health Care Clinic, working with a minimal, hardworking and dedicated staff. It serves approximately 20,000 people. Since the legal ban on home deliveries, babies are being born daily in the Clinic. Every birth is dramatic, exciting, messy and caring. It isn’t like home, how could it be? Our rush to hospital, delivering a twin baby on the way in the van (Mandy), the 2nd twin baby in the hospital (Grace), and then back to the clinic, all before 9.30am, is an example of the variety of the days there. No two days were, or are, ever the same. There is a rough plan, but we are never certain of how a day will actually pan out.
The work with the Uterine Vaginal Prolapse (UVP) Mothers goes on, and there is a steady stream of them needing care, or check ups. There is almost a complete halt on surgical procedures now, apart from the most severe cases. Our introduction of Ring Pessaries, which we took with us, has made a very significant impact, and it is hard to convey the level of joy and appreciation from a woman, who has tolerated the intolerable for many years.
As a result, many women are coming at an earlier stage, receiving education, understanding, and a pessary, if necessary. We believe that this has helped to alleviate the shame and embarrassment associated with prolapse. That was, and will continue to be, our main focus of interest.
Amanda, on the other hand, was able to help in a wider way. She was sent out into “the field”, and found incredibly positive progress, in procedures for dealing with the dangers of malaria, dysentery and polio. Helpful educational visits for inoculations, and positive behaviour changes, whilst respecting traditional cultural ways, were all found to be impressive and productive. Also, she found that antenatal classes, home visits and general care of expectant mothers, was surprisingly effective. This is all to the good, because good maternity care will mean far less occurrence of prolapse.
As before, the clinic is wonderfully led by the inspirational Sister Haimanot Ammanuel. She is one in a million, and I wish that we had a £1,000,000 to allow her to do all that she would love to do, without constantly worrying about paying her dedicated staff a living wage. Her salary bill is £1000 per month for 15 staff – this includes her own salary (which she uses to run the convent), 4 highly qualified nurses, and sundry others, from lab assistants, to cleaners and guards. Funding comes and goes, but none comes from the government.
Our goal this coming year is to find some funding partners, so that EMP can carry on doing what we initially planned, which is to help UVP mothers, badly affected by the rigours of child birth, and hard, impoverished lives. We are also linked with “Michael’s House” www.michaels-house.org who help us with “destitute elderly”, six of whom are given a small monthly pension, administered by Sister Haimanot.
There is so much that we love about, and learn from, our visit to the clinic.
This year, we had very limited electrical power, virtually no internet or phone signals, cold showers, desert like dust, petrol shortages, and “health farm” quantities of food! We were also the recipients of unconditional love, generosity, simplicity and fun – a very fair exchange. As we kept on saying to ourselves – we don’t know how lucky we all are in the Western world, and how much we just take for granted.
Huge thanks, once again, for all your support, interest and s. Be in no doubt, every penny counts, and really makes a difference. We work on a rough factor of about 1:10 in comparisons- i.e. our British £1 goes at least ten times its distance, in spend power, in that very remote part of Africa. So, if you give us a £1, it goes where £10 would here!
With love and thanks.
Jo Middlemiss –Kinross, & Maureen Burnett and Amanda Dunn –Glasgow