News from Ethiopia: 2024

February finds the team from the Ethiopia Medical Project back in the Buccama Health Centre in deeply rural Southern Ethiopia. Every year is a little different but this year the world this seems particularly disturbed by war, disasters, famines and political upsets.

Ethiopia is no different but I notice that things need to be very extreme for any real world interest to be generated.

Usually when we come here, we spend a day in Addis and then set off for the Health Centre by road.

This year there were very real tribal disturbances and for about three nervous days, we were advised not to travel, as bands of armed rebels were stopping vehicles and setting fire to them. Flying is safer and quicker and this was our new plan. But, next day, the plan changed and we did in fact set off by road down a safer route. We arrived here in one piece with all our bags and baggage of donated equipment and clothes intact.

As we arrived on a Saturday when the world is quieter, our welcome was a little muted  which was a good thing for our newest fellow traveller, my Sister-in-Law Carol. Her eyes have been out on organ stops since she got here at all the novel sounds, scenes and extremes.

There is a surplus of bananas this year and we could live on bananas alone. Carol offered to make banana bread and that became a thing. While she was winging it without scales, a recipe and a local local oven with one setting (hot), the call came in to attend a circumcision of a local boy aged 10. As a new visitor she was given pride of place as honorary Godmother to observe the procedure. The brave little patient said not a word! All the male relatives come to witness and ride away with the child on motorbikes making an enormous and noisy fuss.

That done, we were sitting down to a quiet lunch when an emergency pregnancy arrived at Buccama. The girl was 26 weeks pregnant with pre-eclampsia and had to go immediately to hospital. Our intrepid Sister Haimanot set off with the girl, the midwife, her mother and us in the ambulance, Sirens blaring. There is really nothing for us to complain about but the road is so bumpy, we completed our steps for the day without leaving the ambulance

During our first week we were delighted to find the work going on apace:

  • The new maternity wing which we commissioned last year is almost complete.
  • The Podoconiosis Unit is well used three times a week with 500 people per week attending for foot washing, education and treatment if needed, (Podoconiosis is known as a Rare Neglected Tropical Disease of the feet and legs,occurring in very particular regions of the world  among subsistence farmers.)
  • Our prolapse Mothers are also being incredibly well looked after. Uterine Prolapse occurs with great frequency here but help is at hand. Whenever a woman turns up with the problem, she gets treated straight away either with a pessary or the offer of surgery. Although you might consider Ethiopia 3rd World, in this instance there is no waiting list for a pessary and a maximum of three weeks for surgical repair. That is quite amazing when you consider waiting lists for the same condition in Scotland!

Apart from these successes, the need is still huge and fairly overwhelming. The cost of living is soaring, EMP pays the salaries of 27 hard working people. We are struggling to keep that going but we feel we must. For example our top midwife is asking for a salary increase which will only bring his salary up to £204 a month including overtime.

If we don’t implement increase the staff will be forced to leave. That is why we at the Ethiopia Medical Project (EMP) are determined to keep this wonderful little place central in our hearts and minds.