It’s been about two weeks since Michelle Pannell and I returned from Ethiopia on our trip with the campaigning organisation ONE. We were there to see how foreign aid is spent on programmes on the ground, on a trip arranged by ONE.
For much of the time we’ve been back, I’ve been incredibly ill. In addition to the digestive problems many visitors on our trip experienced, I also developed a chest infection and what felt like flu on top of that.
On Monday afternoon last week I was reduced to lying in bed and moaning. A few days later I was ambulatory and speaking to others, almost like a normal person. That was because I had spent Monday morning in an emergency appointment at the doctor’s surgery. I called at 8 a.m., drove 5 minutes to the office (a distance I’d normally cycle in 10), I stopped by the chemist on my shuffle back to the car and was convalescing by lunchtime.
Ironically, when I first started feeling ill, still in Ethiopia, we were visiting a health centre. The rural centre is part of a programme to improve health facilities for rural people. The one we visited serves 170,000 people (!) who mainly get here by walking. One of the biggest obstacles to good healthcare is the distance to a health centre. What a comparison.
When we pulled up in our minibuses, there were lots of interested eyes peering at us — women holding babies and men wearing their cotton wraps slung round their shoulders to keep off the sun.
In the grassy area in front of the centre there stood a mud and grass hut — out of keeping with the modern concrete building behind it. This structure was set up like a traditional house, used to teach healthier practices such as keeping the animals in a separate section and segregating food storage and sleeping areas. (It wasn’t until I visited a villager the next day that the reality of the whole “sheep in your front room” thing came to life for me.)
At the modern building, villagers sat outside the doors on wooden benches, waiting to see the doctor (that sounds familiar). And when we stepped inside the examination room for women, my first thought was “Except for the cracked and missing floor tiles and the vinyl covering on the exam table, this could be an NHS exam room.” Health warning posters were taped to the walls and a pretty young doctor wearing kitten heels talked about the pregnancy services on offer.
The room just beside it was more basic: a delivery room with side-by-side two examination tables, metal stirrups and metal bowls at the end of the table to catch fluids.
To my Western eyes it was pretty shocking. But here it represents a huge improvement on the alternative, labouring in a mud hut with no access to equipment or trained medical personnel.
Women and children in the countryside are in desperate need of healthcare, including immunisations and prenatal care. This health centre is one part of a programme to get services to these remote areas. It works in conjunction with smaller health posts in rural villages that provide basic care and advice. For many villagers, this is their regular healthcare resource, the women working here the only “doctors” they will see.
They are rudimentary, but invaluable because actually getting to a doctor or health services is one of the biggest obstacles for rural Ethiopians. They can walk for miles just to get an immunisation, treatment for diarrhoea or malaria, nutrition and family planning advice. The health posts and this health centre — funded by USAID and through a programme with Pathfinder International and the Ethiopian Ministry of Health — make the difference to thousands of Ethiopians.
We were asked to imagine what life was like before these centres and outposts were available. It wasn’t hard for me: if the nearest help for me had been a day’s walk away under a beating sun — a journey I would have had to make with a baby strapped to my back — I’m not sure I would have even been able to attempt it.
Join #ONEMums — enter your info into the widget below, or scroll down for more ways to get involved!
You can fight extreme poverty by adding your voice – your blog’s power – to the conversation. Here’s how:
- Have a good search of the ONE website and learn about their rich history. Scroll to the bottom of the screen and here is loads of links to good and easy to digest information.
- Blog about ONE to raise awareness and promote their latest campaign, see HERE.
- Add your link to the BritMums #ONEMums Linky below to help raise awareness about ONE and encourage people to sign up.
- Blog about the journey Mich and Jen are taking and share some of their posts that way. See HERE for all the posts tagged Ethiopia on Mich’s blog and HERE and HERE for the ones on the BritMums blog.
- Write a blog to contribute to the ONE blog, this could give you exposure to a whole new audience!
- Tweet or RT any posts to do with the journey and ONE. Use the hashtags #ONEMums and #ONEMoms (we’re using both tags to reach the Community Partners in the US too).
- Facebook/ Google + share any posts or use your status to raise awareness, encourage people to sign up.
- Pin any posts that have the #ONEMums and #ONEMoms hashtags.
- Talk to your family and friends about what you are doing.
- Use the email template HERE to send a message to your contacts.
- Place a widget in your sidebar so people can directly sign up to ONE, or display a banner/ badge (various sizes/ available)
ONE is a non-partisan advocacy organization dedicated to the fight against extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa. Backed by more than 3 million members, they work with government leaders to support proven, cost-effective solutions to save lives and help build sustainable futures. ONE isn’t a charity or grant-making organisation. At ONE, we don’t ask for your money. We ask for your voice. (ONE’s biggest financial supporter is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.)