Rural Development

IFA organised their first medical mission to Zemero, Ethiopia from 24 March to 6 April 2011. This medical mission, headed by Dr. Anteneh Roba, IFA founder and president, was part of IFA’s Rural Development Program and consisted of three doctors, one nurse practitioner, two registered nurses, two newly graduated nurses and two pharmacists. The health care problems faced by the people in rural areas of Ethiopia are immense. The goal of this Medical Mission was to provide improved medical care to the Zemero community. The team arrived to find over 5,000 people waiting to be seen; a mother, 8 months pregnant had walked for three days with her two-year-old child The response was staggering and overwhelming. Some of the people were blind, some had been carried there and many people were hungry, malnourished and had been suffering from medical conditions for several years.IFA was supposed to be there for a week but unfortunately the medicine supplies ran out after treating just 800 people over 4 days.

The team saw most people, many needed referral to a regional hospital; 99.9% of whom had no means of transportation or money to get there. Members of the team chipped in to send the most critical of these cases to the regional hospital. One patient was sent by the team to a hospital in Addis Ababa, where she was successfully treated and returned to Zemero after a few days. Although the mission was successful in part as not everyone received the treatment they needed, lessons were learned for future missions. A special thank you has to go to the donors of this mission. St. Mary’s Hospital in Apple Valley, California donated critical lab equipment that was installed in the Zemero clinic. Houston Northwest Medical Center and Mr. Emil Trokel donated much needed medical supplies and there were many private donations as well.

IFA would like to extend their heartfelt thanks to all the institutions, individuals and especially the volunteers who spent their own money, time and energy to help make this first medical mission a success. IFA is committed to return to northern Ethiopia to help the people of the region. It now has a clearer picture of what is needed and will return better prepared to accommodate the needs of the people in their next medical mission planned for next year.

Medical Mission 2012

From 24 February to 6 March 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 USA/Ethiopian force included doctors from the USA specializing in internal medicine, urology and pediatrics; Ethiopian doctors specializing in general practice and ophthalmology; and 14 nurses from Ethiopia and one from the USA. 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. This year’s successes directly resulted from an increase in funding, preparation, and healthcare professional volunteers.

In a significant advance from last year’s trip, IFA collaborated with several groups and institutions in Ethiopia: The Ethiopian Ophthalmology Society, who provided a surgical microscope; Debre Berhan Hospital, who provided space for surgery and pre and post-operative care; ABC rental Addis Ababa, who provided two buses for 10 days at no charge to transport referral patients; and the local and regional Amhara government who collaborated with the team 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 Debre Berhan hospital for surgery, a team of ten doctors, five nurses and one 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 demonstrated, the efforts of all our volunteers, affiliated institutions and donations vastly increased the impact of the mission in the rural parts of Ethiopia. Learn more from he people who were there (link to testimonials)

This single trip goes one crucial step further in IFA’s greater plan to improve healthcare in the region by addressing the root causes, not just the symptoms, of poverty. IFA proposes to do this through its strategic Community Health and Development Plan. 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.

Mahal Meda Hospital: Eye Unit

Following on from the success of the two medical missions, IFA wants to establish a more sustainable program. During the medical missions many Ethiopian doctors had been able to professionally develop their skills, particularly with eye surgery, learning from their American counterparts and vice versa.

These additional skills now need to be utilized at general/referral hospitals in Ethiopia but support is needed to develop secondary eye units within many of the hospitals so this valuable work of restoring sight and preventing blindness can be carried out. IFA would like to offer their support to establish the secondary eye unit at Mahal Meda Hospital which is one of 4 hospitals in North Shewa, Amhara Region, serving more than 360,000 people residing in five woredas; this includes the Menz Gera Midir Woreda where the hospital is located. Many patients from the Zemero Health Center are referred to this hospital. The hospital only recently began conducting emergency surgeries a year ago but lacks vital medical tools and equipment. In order for the hospital to function as a successful secondary eye unit the following items are required: a slit lamp microscope, auto refractometer, dry heat autoclave, operating microscope and operating table, as well as multiple ophthalmoscopes, Snellen visual charts, stretchers, trolleys, surgeon revolving stools and cataract sets. Any donations for this project would be gratefully received, please refer to our Donate page.

Community Health and Development Plan

Recently, IFA conducted a Needs Assessment for Zemero, North Shoa, Ethiopia, the small rural town that has been selected as the primary site for our rural development projects. Since 2007, IFA has worked steadily in the area, completing two medical missions serving nearly 6,000 patients, developing and strengthening a laboratory at the health center with equipment and trained staff (Read more…link to Capacity Development) and forming a strategic rural development plan.

Through questionnaires, personal interviews, focus group discussions, and personal observations of the region IFA was able to determine the extent of resources and facilities related to health, education, water/sanitation and food production in and near Zemero. Our data also revealed the great needs still facing the region and has helped us to move forward with a plan to address areas of improvement. The greatest deficiencies are in water availability, education, and health services. The soil in Zemero is rocky and dry, with water located far below the ground’s surface. The nearest lake or spring, Allola Lake, is located 6 kilometers from Zemero and there is no direct road to that vital water source. Meanwhile, educational facilities are both scarce and substandard. The Woreda in which Zemero is located has a total population of about 180,000 yet has only one high school. The 35 elementary schools in the region require upgrades to be brought up to modern administrative standards. The health needs of Zemero and surrounding areas have been a central focus of IFA since 2007. Today, the Zemero Health Center sees nearly 140 people on Mondays (market day) and between 45 and 50 patients from Tuesdays through to Fridays. The facility holds six beds for inpatient procedures, a neonate corner with a nurse trained in infant health and a well-supplied pharmacy. However, the infrastructure lacks basic necessities such as sufficient running water and reliable electricity. Additional beds are needed, as well as repair of the generator. Meanwhile, staff training programs are necessary to acquire and retain skilled workers trained in proper medical practices.

Planning for the Future: After concluding our assessment, IFA further developed its concepts for the development of the Green Community Village Model for Zemero that is centered on the belief that poverty can be eliminated by building rural areas of Africa into self-sustaining communities. The Green Community Village combines solar power, water harvesting techniques, edible landscaping, conservation farming, and protected cultivation to provide electrical power, water, and food for village-scale economic development. IFA seeks to create a consortium of organizations that can work together on the various aspects of development most needed in Zemero. IFA’s focus on health, joined with the resources and expertise of organizations specializing in water, education and agriculture, will create a powerful team that holistically addresses the many problems facing rural African villages today.