ETHIOPIA: Salesian Abobo Health Clinic provides health services for more than 4,000 local women, children and refugees
(MissionNewswire) Between the cities of Gambella and Pugnido is the village of Abobo in western Ethiopia. The majority of the population in Abobo is of Sudanese origin because of its proximity to the border of Sudan. Many people have sought refuge there to escape war and famine. In Ethiopia, where rural poverty is endemic, Sudanese refugees find themselves lost and without points of reference and support except for the refugee camps that have sprung up around Gambella.
In 2002, a group of Italian and Spanish volunteers set up a local health clinic in collaboration with local Salesian missionaries in Abobo. Today, the Abobo Health Center serves as a symbol of the community and provides health services for the more than 4,000 local villagers. The facility has 40 beds, a small ward dedicated to sick children and those suffering from malnutrition and a small wing that houses obstetrics. Having expanded its reach over the years, the health clinic serves the approximately 20,000 people living in the area and the 200,000 people in the entire region.
Two Spanish physicians, Tere and Maria, provide medical care for those who are affected by malaria, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and various infections common in the region. Thanks to their passion and care, the clinic focuses on maternal and child care, serving two of the most at-risk populations in the country.
Together, they are engaged in providing wellness exams and regular screenings for pregnant women as well as vaccinations to mothers during pregnancy. Tere and Maria are also focused on preventative care. They provide an average of 40 maternal vaccinations per week and attend to 30 births per month.
For difficult pregnancies and childbirth, Tere and Maria are also well-connected to the larger hospital in the city of Gambella. For women who require more advanced medical care, they will provide ambulance services to transport these women to the hospital. After childbirth, Tere and Maria provide follow-up care to the mothers and newborn exams.
The two doctors note, “In our small center we are busy every day in the prevention and treatment of endemic diseases, especially by trying to help mothers and their children. We provide vaccinations of mothers during pregnancy, prevention of diseases such as anemia, hypertension, malaria and various infections that cause serious consequences also to the newborn. We also provide the important activity of early diagnosis, regular screening and simple checkups we offer for free.”
The health center continues to function thanks to the international support it receives. Maria and Tere add, “We do not know if tomorrow we will be lucky enough to receive help to run this health center. The only sure thing is that tomorrow, like every day, mothers will come with their children for vaccinations, a woman in labor will show up and a child will need urgent medical care.”
Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world with more than 38 percent of its population living in poverty, according to Feed the Future. Close to 85 percent of the country’s workforce is employed in agriculture but frequent droughts severely affect the agricultural economy leaving more than 12 million people chronically, or at least periodically, food insecure. In addition, more than two-thirds of the population is illiterate.
The country has 4 million orphans which account for nearly 12 percent of all children and according to UNICEF, more than half a million of these were orphaned as a result of the HIV/AIDS crisis that has affected the country. Thousands more children run away each year seeking a better life on the streets.
Salesian missionaries across Ethiopia primarily focus on the education of poor youth. They accomplish this through the operation of primary schools, secondary schools and six vocational training centers. At all these Salesian-run educational facilities, youth are able to gain an education while having access to support services, including family sponsorship and school feeding programs, that provide care for them and their families all with the goal of keeping youth in school as long as possible.
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Feed the Future – Ethiopia
UNICEF – Ethiopia