Anna is examining a patient in an MSF therapeutic feeding center in the Somali region of Ethiopia. [MSF]
Anna Greenham is an MSF doctor working in the Somali region of Ethiopia, where MSF has been delivering vital healthcare to communities, on and off, as necessary, and where possible, since the 1990’s. Anna and the teams provide healthcare and nutritional programs to a population struggling to survive amid numerous challenges, not least an ongoing conflict between government and rebel forces.
Essential healthcare amid the dust and desolation in Southeast Ethiopia
Life in the Somali region of Ethiopia is tough. The rains have failed, food is running out and even the camels are dying of thirst.
Add to this a complex armed conflict and you have a recipe for disaster. Nomadic people can’t find water or grazing for their livestock and are forced to travel huge distances to survive. Many have lost everything. Without a livelihood they move to the edge of towns where they live in squalid conditions in very basic shelters, without clean water or food. It is in one of these small rural towns, Wardher, that MSF provides the only reliable healthcare for a dispersed population of about 40,000 people.
Wardher town is a dusty, bleak place. Most people live in tin roofed shacks or mud huts. There are only dirt roads, no running water and electricity only works for a few hours a day. There is a market but hardly any fresh food is available.
You would probably be shocked if I gave you a tour of our clinic. Things are very basic. Crowds of anxious patients wait outside on benches for consultations. Some have walked for days to reach us. Many have tried traditional therapies first and only come to the clinic when they are critically sick. The sickest patients are referred to our inpatient department where two large tents with mats on the floor function as wards. It may look chaotic but it is amazing what we can achieve with so little. As well as general healthcare, we support a TB program, feed around 100 malnourished children, provide routine antenatal care, vaccinations and even mobile clinics to isolated villages. By training local staff we hope to leave something behind when MSF eventually leaves the area.