MSF begins primary health care in impoverished south-eastern Ethiopia

A new support project for a primary health care clinic (PHC) has started in the 'Somali region' of south-eastern Ethiopia. The project opened on June 22. Based in Cherati, the clinic will assist a population living in an area in which health facilities are critically lacking or dysfunctional and where the delivery of health services is amongst the lowest in Ethiopia. "Health care facilities in much of the Somali region are tragically scarce," explains MSF head of mission, Isabelle Aubry. "The region is remote and isolated, with the population, mainly comprising of pastoralists, having suffered greatly from drought in the last few years. Most noticeably this has had a decimating effect on children under five years of age. Infant mortality is extremely high with nearly one in ten babies dying at birth." Covering a target population of approximately 75,000, the new project will cover adult consultations, under 5 consultations, ante and post-natal consultations, dressing, deliveries, vaccination and drug distribution. With a low level of vaccination coverage across the region engendering the risk of epidemic outbreaks, the PHC will also include an emergency monitoring programme. "Currently the expatriate team consists of a midwife and a logistician, but working with the local ministry of health we hope to quickly scale up. While this is a step forward, the new project will be a long way from covering the vast needs in this much neglected area. As it stands, the nearest official reference hospital in Gode is not only under-equipped, but over 6 hours away by road." explains Aubry. MSF has a long history in the region, having first opened in 1992, and the new PHC will function alongside a water and sanitation project which has been operational in and around Cherati since August 2001. This project - run with 77 national and three expatriate staff - currently constructs 1 well and 8-10 latrines on average per month, while the hygiene promotion component is a daily and constant activity.