Impact Ethiopia: Notes from the Field
By Charles Redding, MedShare CEO & President
MedShare began hosting Impact Trips several years ago in an effort to give our Board Members, Council Members, staff, donors, supporters, and friends a closer look at the impact that our mission has had around the world. It is important that stakeholders in our mission have a personal understanding of the communities we serve so that we can continue to serve them better. This year we had the pleasure of traveling to Ethiopia.
One of our primary objectives was to follow up on the project we completed with the Minister of Health’s Office three years ago, which resulted in MedShare delivering over $9 million in medical supplies and biomedical equipment to strengthen healthcare across the country. Needless to say, the trip has been incredible.
We started our week by visiting two hospitals – St. Paul and Abet Burn Center, that had received donations from us. We heard their feedback loud and clear, “the consumable supplies were extremely helpful, but we need more.” They also shared that they are in need of more biomedical equipment and training. Both hospitals are very crowded and lack many very basic items. They have started construction on a new facility and we hope to support them by providing the necessary equipment and supplies. I must also compliment the leadership of the facilities. They were very young, dynamic leaders and passionate about improving the quality of care of their patients.
We were also honored to have lunch at one of our board member’s, Kassy Kebede, home. Kassy is a proud Ethiopian who has dedicated his life to improving economic and health conditions in Ethiopia. In fact, he invited the current Ethiopian Ambassador to the U.S., Fitsum Arega, to join us for lunch. His Excellency shared incredible, insightful information regarding the current state of affairs in Ethiopia and their desire to improve, spear-headed by a new group of young men and women leaders.
The next day we had the opportunity to visit another recipient hospital – St. Peter’s. We heard a similar message from them, but they emphasized the need for equipment and biomedical equipment training. They just don’t have the expertise to repair and maintain the equipment they have. The facility was well managed, not too crowded, and was very well run. Both St. Paul and Abet Burn Center and St. Peter’s suffered from a lack of comprehensive patient data that is needed to properly evaluate the needs of their facilities. A dire need for biomedical equipment and training continues to be a common theme.
After our visit to St. Peter’s we had the opportunity to visit with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to hear more about their work in Ethiopia and their focus on Health and Agriculture. The Gates Foundation has been operating in Ethiopia since 2000 and this office has been operating in Addis Ababa since 2012. They shared with us that since their first grant in 2000, Ethiopia has seen a 45% reduction in poverty. Truly remarkable.
We also met with the leadership of The Taskforce for Global Health’s International Trachoma Initiative Program. Based in Atlanta, the Taskforce has been an impactful partner with MedShare. Dr. Teshome Konnan shared with us the incredible progress they have made in delivering antibiotics across the continent to treat and prevent Trachoma, which left untreated can lead to severe eye irritation and blindness. This is known as a “Disease of Poverty” since it is prevalent in areas with poor sanitation and lack of access to clean water.
Today we continued our tour by visiting Black Lion Hospital, another recipient of our shipments. This is the largest hospital in Addis Ababa and it provides a number of surgical procedures not offered at the other facilities. The findings and feedback were very similar. They lacked basic supplies and equipment need to ensure quality outcomes. However, unlike the other hospitals that were treating primarily communicable diseases, Black Lion addresses a number of severe non-communicable issues like heart disease, oncology, and diabetes. The wait time to get into this hospital can be as much as eight months. The medical director also shared that the hospital was severely below the WHO standard of allocating 10% of the hospital beds to Intensive Care Unit (ICU). The current allocation was at 1.2%. This hospital also lacked basic supplies, equipment and requested help with biomedical equipment training.
To our surprise, we ran into a group of Emory Medical Students at Black Lion! Traveling to provide care in medically underserved communities, the students noted the lack of chemical reagents limiting their ability to provide treatment. We were also pleasantly surprised and pleased to find out that the hospital was working with Philips to supply equipment for a new cardiovascular wing that they were constructing. We certainly will find out more information about this project from our partner, Philips.
Next, we went to the Hamlin Fistula Hospital. Hamlin is a registered charitable organization in Ethiopia dedicated to the treatment and prevention of childbirth injuries called obstetric fistulas. They have been operating in Ethiopia since 1974 to support young girls and women who have been ostracized by their communities. This was an incredible sanctuary that not only treated the young women, but also provided education and secure housing upon the completion of their treatment. We really felt uplifted hearing about all the wonderful work that this organization was doing to improve the lives of the young women in their care.
We ended our trip by being treated to a traditional Ethiopian meal complete with cultural dances. I can think of no better way to conclude this wonderful journey.
MedShare’s mission is to improve the quality of life of people and our planet. Learn more about our programs and initiatives at www.medshare.org.