Ethiopia: Aid in the face of war, food crisis, and epidemics

© Sven Torfinn Click on image for full size A patient with kala azar (visceral leishmaniasis) lies in the corridor of a hospital in Humera in norther Ethiopia. The disease, spread by the bite of an infected sandfly, threatens about 350 million people worldwide, mostly in developing countries. It is still treated as it was in the 1940's.
In Tigray, a region bordering Eritrea, MSF provides surgery for civilians and landmine victims, gives medical assistance to hundreds of thousands of IDPs, coordinates medi-cal care in a transit camp for tens of thousands of Ethiopians, and takes care of water and sanitation in a camp for 4,000 Eritrean refugees. Food crisis Through October 2000, MSF continued the emergency nutritional aid begun in early 2000 in areas of the country affected by severe drought. MSF opened feeding centers for malnourished children in Amhara and North Wollo, in the north, in Denan and Gode zones in the southeast and in Welayita, South Omo, and Konso/Arero zones in the south. Click on image for full size
Massive donations of food were made throughout 2000 and 2001. While the situation improved in some areas, and some MSF feeding programs were able to close, people in Welayita, Wollo, and Somali regions remained at risk. MSF has maintained its feeding programs in Denan, in the Somali region, where a nutritional survey in May 2001 revealed a general malnutrition rate of 51%, with severe malnutrition affecting 9% of the population. MSF continues to provide health care to Sudanese refugees, displaced people, and area residents in Menkush, near the border with Sudan. District health support is offered in Dubti (in the Afar region) and Woldya (in North Wollo). Meningitis, kala azar, AIDS, and tuberculosis Meningitis hit Ethiopia in early 2001, part of a deadly outbreak that swept across Africa's "meningitis belt" (see page 30). In the regions of Gambela, Bench Maji, East Wolega, Amhara, Oromia, Gurage, and Southern People, MSF vaccinated over 1.4 million people. Kala azar (visceral leishmaniasis) is endemic in several areas of Ethiopia. The parasitic disease is fatal if untreated, but with treatment the cure rate is above 90%. Since 1999, MSF has fought kala azar in the southern area of Konso, where an estimated 70,000 people are exposed to the fly-borne disease, and in Humera in the north. MSF works to reduce the time between detection and treatment and increase local capacity to cope with the disease, and help the health authorities introduce cheaper generic drugs. AIDS is also a threat in Ethiopia. More than 2.9 million adults and 150,000 children are living with the virus. MSF has started HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted disease (STD) prevention and treatment programs in the town of Humera in northern Ethiopia, and in big towns along the main roads crossing the country. In the capital Addis Ababa, MSF treats STDs and promotes HIV/AIDS prevention in the city's 22 health centers, and has drop-in centers in four red light districts. STDs are also treated in Tigray. Tuberculosis (TB) is one of the leading causes of death in the country. MSF TB programs treat about 3,000 people a year at five locations in the Somali region. In early 2001 another TB program began among the semi-nomadic population in Afar. In Wag Hamra zone in Amhara province, MSF has established and is currently monitoring safe and clean water supplies in five semi-urban and 19 rural communities. In Afder, in the drought-plagued Somali region, a new water rehabilitation project has been started. MSF started working in Ethiopia during the famine in 1984. After speaking out against forced population movements in 1984, MSF was expelled, but reentered the country in 1985 and has since maintained a permanent presence. International staff: 58 National staff: 685