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Trevor Parsons talks about his sponsorship of Adisu, the desperate need for health care professionals to work in the community and his hopes for health awareness programmes.

My sponsorship of Adisu

I cannot say what drove Adisu to the standard he reached, but he has always obviously been one who strives to be the best possible at his job. I knew only that he was desperate to find something more worthwhile than being a tour guide, with its poor prospects for a steady future. He expressed an interest in doing nursing as a way of giving something to the local community, with which he still identifies closely. The shortage of qualified medical personnel is a factor that is extremely important in Ethiopia and is continually worsened by the general desire to emigrate and earn vastly higher incomes. A fundamental condition of my support for him, before I paid anything, was that he should remain in the community to work there and he accepted this restriction without any hesitation..

A desperate shortage of doctors

In his hospital placement he told me about the numbers of staff available to serve the estimated 380,000 inhabitants of the catchment zone of that hospital. There were ten doctors, twenty health officers and 25 nurses. Divided into three shifts it means that three doctors, six or seven health officers and about eight nurses had a pool of 380,000 potential patients on their hands. No wonder that the majority of health clinics in the country are run by nurses, with doctors only called when necessary for the more advanced problems. When it is not possible to get a doctor to attend, the relatives have to carry patients to the nearest available help, a journey which can amount to three days. Often a mule will drag a stretcher on poles along the rough tracks, which join the villages to the towns.

Heath education for the community

Adisu’s driving ambition has been revealed to be health education, in order to reduce the number of childhood and obstetric illnesses. Vaccination will be at the forefront of his drive for the active prevention of common illnesses, facilitated by talks and large screen TV programmes. He hopes that the reliance on rural medicine men will decline as superstitious beliefs are explained. This will encourage the local people to seek help earlier, from a more educated source. The belief that illness or misfortunes are punishments sent by God is widespread.

Trevor Parsons

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