Serving Remote Areas in Ethiopia
The Leku District Hospital: Fulfilling a Promise
The health care crisis in Ethiopia has had a profound impact on people of the Sidama region. There were only two hospitals serving more than 10 million, leaving most residents with no access to health care of any kind. Emergency care, medication, surgery and maternity services were virtually non-existent.
The situation was especially grim for mothers and children. Almost all women give birth at home, usually assisted by untrained birth attendants. If there were complications, the only option for a woman in labor was to walk 15-35 miles to the nearest hospital. In fact, it was not uncommon to see women die in the arms of those carrying them to the closest medical facility.
Today, the Leku District Hospital is now serving the people of Sidama!
Saving Lives in Sidama
Wide Horizons For Children (WHFC) joined with the regional government, local health care professionals and the community to build the much-needed hospital in Shebedino. The small clinic that had been serving 600,000 has become a full-fledged facility providing a range of treatment options and surgical services to area residents for the first time.
The hospital provides emergency services, prenatal care, labor and delivery support, pediatric care, surgery, prevention programs and health education. There are also programs to combat disease and malnutrition, with an emphasis on maternal and child health. "When a mother dies in childbirth, it puts her child in a crisis situation," says Dr. Fletcher Wilson, chair of the WHFC Medical Advisory Board. "Reducing the region's extremely high maternal mortality rate will not only mean that fewer children will become orphans, but also make those children much more likely to survive through childhood.
"This project was a true partnership between the government, the community and WHFC, fully driven by the Ethiopian people," he adds. "We have created an excellent facility with a high standard of patient care."
According to Mesay Hailu Dangiso, head of the Sidama Zone Health Department, "The Leku Hospital is the only one in the area serving more than 20 rural health clinics. It is a great triumph for the people of Shebedino."
The Adwa Clinic - A Successful Partnership
For years, residents of Adwa in northern Ethiopia urgently needed a local health clinic. With the nearest hospital much too far a walk for someone ill or about to give birth, most of the roughly 1.5 million people in the region had no access to health care.
In this war-torn area prone to drought, 97 percent of local residents live in poverty. Women were dying during childbirth because of the shortage of medical facilities. Many more children were suffering from malnutrition and diseases that were easily treatable.
In keeping with our commitment to fund life-changing projects communities want and need, Wide Horizons For Children (WHFC) built the Adwa Comprehensive Health Clinic at the request of local citizens and government officials. The community contributed labor and materials.
In the words of Adwa resident Kiros Abereha, "There are lots of AIDS patients and needy people who can't afford taxis to get to the hospital from their homes. The construction of a clinic was a priority for our community. For many years we had been thinking of having a clinic. We're so happy WHFC came, and we were ready to help."
A site was chosen in the poorest area of Adwa, within walking distance of many of the most remote villages. Hundreds of community members participated. Women carted dirt and rocks on make-shift stretchers, while men spent hours using rudimentary tools to chisel stone for the clinic's exterior. Where there was once only barren land, there now stands a health clinic surrounded by a lovely garden.
The clinic is supervised by a health officer, with rotating health care professionals, a laboratory technician and pharmacy technician. Thanks to a microscope and centrifuge, the lab can perform vital tests such as rapid HIV screening. Rooms and services which did not exist before, such as an operating room that can be used for minor procedures, are now available for the community.
The clinic has the potential to save thousands of lives, especially those of vulnerable women and children. WHFC will continue to be involved in capacity building through medical missions, staff training and supplies, equipment and other resources to ensure the clinic provides maximum benefit to the community.
Wide Horizons For Children (WHFC) continues to support highly successful medical missions to Ethiopia. Teams of skilled, dedicated professionals travel to the Sidama and Tigray regions to work side-by-side with their Ethiopian counterparts, providing training in a range of life-saving techniques. These teams perform surgeries in medical facilities that are vastly under-resourced, train local physicians and nurses on updated medical practices, bring necessary equipment and supplies to severely under-equipped health facilities, and visit rural communities to train traditional birth attendants and community health workers.
While the focus is to meet immediate health care needs, we hope regular access to surgical services, training and equipment will encourage Ethiopian physicians to remain in public
hospitals – which has been a real challenge, since pay scales are much higher outside the country and at private facilities.
The first medical mission was spearheaded by WHFC adoptive dad Dr. Fletcher Wilson and Dr. Stephan Coffman, both of New Hampshire, in November 2008. On subsequent missions, our teams of volunteer doctors have performed more than 1,000 surgeries. They have also spent countless hours teaching life-saving techniques such as neonatal resuscitation. In addition, a Misoprostol training and distribution program has been implemented in eight rural communities to keep women from bleeding to death after childbirth. On future trips, medical teams will work to improve access to iodine. Thousands of Ethiopians suffer from goiters (enlarged thyroid gland) due to iodine deficiencies. As a result, many children are born with mental retardation.
Join a Medical Mission
We invite doctors, nurses, public health professionals and other health care specialists to apply for one of our medical missions. We particularly need the following specialists:
- General surgeons
- Obstetricians and gynecologists
- Plastic surgeons
- Other surgical specialists
Prior experience administering medical care in third-world countries is helpful. Conditions are uncertain and may involve working without fresh water or electricity. Openings for future missions may become available on short notice. Applicants able to travel under these terms will be given priority.
Mission volunteers are responsible for their own airfare to and from Addis Ababa and pay WHFC a small donation to cover in-country travel, food, lodging and medical supplies for the hospital. The cost of each trip is approximately $5,000. Volunteers are responsible for obtaining a valid passport, any necessary immunizations, spending money and other related costs.
We are gathering information on medical professionals interested in participating in our cause. Individuals who want to join a future mission should complete the two-step application process as follows:
- Mail a notarized copy of your license and other credentials to:
WHFC Medical Missions
38 Edge Hill Road
Waltham, MA 02451
The number of health care providers and specialists needed for each mission will vary depending upon the specific needs of the hospital and community. You need not reapply, as all applicant information will be stored in a database for future missions, and selected applicants will be contacted by one of the physicians heading up each trip.
Support Our Missions!
You can make future life-saving medical missions possible by helping to cover the cost of supplies and equipment, staff training in Ethiopia and in-country travel. Donations in any amount are greatly needed and deeply appreciated. Consider that just $100 provides 500 doses of misoprostol, and $5,000 makes an entire mission possible! Please make your tax-deductible donation to our medical missions today.
Medical Care Through Special Care Projects and Child Sponsorship
We also provide access to health care services for disadvantaged children living in institutions and impoverished families. Read more about our efforts to serve children through our special care projects and child sponsorship programs.