International Fund for Africa
Issue: XXV  March, 2012
International Fund for Africa Newsletter
In This Issue:
4,700 Patients in Second Medical Mission to Ethiopia
Testimonial: Vincent Herbert, R.N.
Testimonial: Lydia Gonzales, M.D.
Testimonial: Paulos Yohannes, M.D.
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Upcoming Events


August 2-5, 2012

IFA President/CEO, Anteneh Roba M.D., will speak at the Animal Rights 2012 National Conference in Washington, DC. IFA will also have an exhibit at the conference.

September 13-16, 2012

IFA President/CEO, Anteneh Roba M.D., will speak at the International Animal Rights Conference in Luxembourg. 


Fall, 2012

International Fund for Africa is sponsoring a medical mission to Zemero, Ethiopia.



4,700 Patients Seen in Second Medical Mission to Ethiopia 



From February 24 to March 6, 2012, IFA co-founder and president, Dr. Anteneh Roba, led a medical mission team consisting of 30 healthcare professionals in a week-long program to address the immediate health concerns of people residing in Zemero, Ethiopia and nearby rural areas.



The combined U.S./Ethiopian force included doctors from the U.S. specializing in internal medicine, urology, ED, pediatrics, Ethiopian doctors specializing in general practice and ophthalmology, as well as a nursing staff of 14 nurses from Ethiopia and one from the U.S.



In addition to these specialized medical practitioners, non-healthcare volunteers, drivers, and IFA staff contributed their time and energy to an incredibly successful mission. Together, they addressed the health concerns of 4,734 patients in the course of a week--five times more than IFA had been able to see during their first visit to Zemero just one year earlier. None of these remarkable accomplishments would have been possible without the organizational skills of Ms. Seble Nebiyeloul, COO and co-founder of IFA.



This year's successes directly resulted from an increase in funding, preparation, and healthcare professional volunteers. Our additional resources, personnel and pre-trip preparation allowed us to pinpoint patients suffering from loss of vision due to eye conditions like trachoma and cataracts.



In a significant advance from last year's trip, we collaborated with several groups and institutions in Ethiopia: The Ethiopian Ophthalmology Society, who lent us a surgical microscope; Debre Berhane Hospital, who gave us space for both surgery and pre- and post-op care; and ABC rental Addis Ababa, who lent us two buses for 10 days, at no charge, to transport patients to and from Zemero to Debere Berhane, 170 kilometers from Zemero, for surgery and the local and regional Amhara government who collaborated with us on every level.



Due to the efforts of an eye nurse, who screened and treated over 2,000 patients in 11 days, IFA was able to provide cataract surgery for 135 patients, and enabled a minor surgical procedure known as tarsotomy to be performed on 128 patients, thus reversing or preventing blindness in a total of 263 people.



While those suffering from eye ailments were being transported to and from the hospital for surgery, a team of 10 MDs (eight from the U.S. and two from Ethiopia), five nurses (four from Ethiopia, one from the U.S.), and one U.S.-based pharmacist saw an additional 2,200 patients over the course of the week. Those patients needing immediate treatment were transported to Debre Berhane hospital or Addis Ababa, many of whom benefited from the ultra-modern lab run by a lab technician from Ethiopia, as well as other upgrades implemented after the donations of St. Mary's Hospital in Apple Valley, California.



As the results of this mission demonstrate, the efforts of all our paid and unpaid volunteers, affiliated institutions, and donations made by contributors like you vastly increased the impact IFA was able to make in the rural sections of Ethiopia that most need our help.



This single trip goes one crucial step further in our greater plan to improve healthcare in the region by addressing the root causes, not just the symptoms, of poverty.



By building on these trips to create Green Community Health and Development Centers, we can address the underlying causes of poverty: Food insecurity, water scarcity, poor roads and inadequate health infrastructure; and give rural Africans the means to improve their own lives and those of their children.


Testimonial: Vincent Herbert, R.N.  



I once again had the opportunity to travel with Dr. Roba and an extraordinary medical team based in the US and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to the rural, remote village of Zemero in northern Ethiopia. Yes, I am a repeat offender having traveled with IFA to Zemero in March, 2011. Extreme drought and poverty continue to be the root of the healthcare challenges in this part of the world, and in spite of this, the hardiness, toughness, and resiliency of the people continue to inspire and amaze me. For example, the 70 year old man and woman who walked everywhere on bare feet. They had never worn any shoes or sandals in their lifetime. Their feet were tougher and thicker than NIKE athletic shoes. AMAZING!


IFA has made Colossal improvement from last year to this year.


The number of people treated medically and surgically increased exponentially from 800 to just under 5000. Restoring eyesight and preventing blindness in approximately 260 people is truly astounding. Witnessing the gratitude and thankfulness of the people was heartwarming and brought tears to my eyes. I am proud of something so positive, so good, not only for Africa, but for the world. To see first-hand the progress and momentum, and be a part of IFA, is one of the more satisfying experiences of my life.


--Vince Herbert, R.N.


Testimonial: Lydia Gonzales, M.D.  


The mission trip to Zemero, Ethiopia, was both rewarding, invigorating, exhausting and unbelievable. As a pediatrician, I saw diseases that I remembered reading about in textbooks or board reviews. The children presented with thyroid disease, due to iodine deficiency, sclera eye changes due to vitamin deficiencies, and untreated congenital orthopedic diseases. We saw results of untreated otitis media, with perforations, and subsequent scarring and hearing loss. It was a potpourri of illness, including delayed puberty due to malnutrition to the healthy happy children, whom reported parasites in their stool. The pharmacy was near, and we will be able to see and treat the majority of the children, and then some.


We would often be accompanied by the local children after clinic, who would escort us back to our accommodations. They entertained us with questions, repeated our words in English and brandished their knowledge of English as they shouted our names and taught us words in Amharic. It was a refreshing, rewarding, and at times exhausting experience, but one which I would gladly repeat. I plan to return and would encourage any physician, young or old, to lend both their time and expertise to this remote community and effort.


--Lydia Gonzales, M.D.


Testimonial:  Paulos Yohannes, M.D.



I am thankful that IFA opened a door of opportunity for me to go to one of the most remote and forgotten parts of East Africa for a one-week medical mission trip. When I was first asked to join this team, I was very hesitant, to say the least. I had encouraged a good friend, my daughter's pediatric endocrinologist, to lend a hand in an attempt to "pass the buck". It wasn't long after I extended the invitation to him that I realized that he wouldn't go unless I joined. Feeling guilty and a little bit of shame that this "foreigner" was willing to help my people when I wasn't even a bit interested, I reluctantly agreed to join him. That began a three-week journey back to my homeland, after twenty-eight years of absence. After we reached Zemero, I was immediately immersed in an ocean of needs that became overwhelming. There were no flowers to greet me, no festivities to be held, no parade in my honor, no folksongs reminding me how much they missed a member of the diaspora. But instead, all I faced was a multitude of sad, hurt, depressed, forgotten people with a small glimmer of hope that we came from a far distance to heal their wounds, temporarily relieve their burden, and to once again remind them that there are people in this world who care.


I couldn't help but think that these were the very people who were part of my daily fixture over three decades ago. I saw old barefoot women with wrinkled faces that resembled my grandmother; veterans who proudly wore their dirty uniforms that reminded me of my grandfather, himself a veteran of World War II; little, malnourished kids on the dirt streets that were full of joy and happiness, seemingly oblivious of the present hardships and uncertain future; little girls with glowing faces covered with bright smiles that emphatically announced that wealth was not a prerequisite for happiness; and young girls carrying large jugs of water making the hour-long journey home, making us all wonder where all the men were. After we settled in, we were surrounded with bystanders curiously gazing with piercing eyes at our team and analyzing our every move. I have to admit I was uncomfortable and at times doubted why I had chosen to make the long and hard journey thousands of miles away from my comfort zone.



During the six days we were there, we saw countless patients, most of them physically sick, and some simply present to echo their grief and hard way of life to a "foreign" audience. After a few days, I couldn't help but think that the healing process was mutual for us all. Perhaps, arguably so, their kind words, appreciation, and calm demeanor started the healing process for those of us who went to tend to their medical needs of our selfishness and materialism. That week was a reminder to me that all humans, connected all over the world, regardless of race, color, educational background, religion, and economic status, have a common need to be loved and an obligation to love unconditionally.


Zemero reminded me that unselfish love begets a revelation and a better understanding of who we are deep within. Somehow, kindness to others that costs us time and money enables us to see our past like we never have. This is the same kindness that robs us of our peace and creates sleepless nights until we know that we have made a difference, and creates selfless acts that don't rest until the world becomes a better place. This trip was more than just a medical exercise at handing out anti-parasitic pills or performing a few minor surgical procedures. It was an opportunity to realize that a small group of individuals can make a difference in the physical, emotional, and spiritual lives of many, and in return develop an appreciation of the people and opportunities that so many of us take for granted.


I would urge anyone to consider joining IFA in this adventure in the coming years. Come to Zemero to discover others, and more importantly, to discover yourself!


--Paulos Yohannes, M.D.