Nekemte Catholic Secretariat (NCS) initiates health projects focused on isolated, unprivileged and marginalised communities in western Ethiopia. Dioraphte has funded the Health Program 2020 in four districts of West Showa, Kellem Wollega and the East Wollega zones of Oromia Regional State. ‘These are impoverished remote areas where the government is hardly active,’ says project leader Eskindir Kebede.
The NCS operational area covers about 140,000 square kilometers,explains Kebede. It borders with Sudan and 84 percent of the population live in agricultural communities. The region has been disrupted by war and conflict. The principal source of income is traditional farming. even though the land is fertile, circumstances mean that the full potential is not being realised. ‘The average income is under a dollar a day,’ claims Kebede. ‘ And the economy is still deteriorating, as a result of COVID-19 for example. Meanwhile, the population continues to grow, as does unemployment. This leads to increased poverty and famine, which of course has implications for public health.’
The failure of the government to provide basic medical services means that a parallel approach through private clinics remains necessary.
The aim of the NCS Health Programme 2020 is to strengthen health care in five districts. In practice, this involves supporting eleven clinics and two healthcare posts. In total 42 medics and 56 support staff are employed there. They cover an area with a population of 160,000 people, which amounts to 2.6 medical professionals per 10,000 people. The WHO standard stands at 22.8 medics per 10,000 inhabitants, almost ten times higher. When people need healthcare, only ten per cent of the cost can be met by the people themselves. The failure of the government to provide basic medical services means that a parallel approach through private clinics remains necessary.
The strategy to improve healthcare is built on three pillars, says Kebede. ‘We work to improve the management of the clinics, we maintain close ties with the communities and we try to co-operate with the government as much as possible.’ Part of the support from Dioraphte goes directly to curative healthcare, according to Kebede. ‘Think of standard treatments, laboratory services, medication and “outreach care”, and specifically the treatment of goiter [enlargement of the thyroid gland, ed.], podoconiosis [Elephantiasis of the lower legs ed.] and ophthalmological care.’
A large part of the programme focuses on prevention. ‘It starts with the training and empowerment of the clinics staff. We also send our staff to schools and remote areas to provide information on COVID-19, HIV, hygiene and birth control. There is a large group of internally displaced people in the region, many of whom have yet to be reached. We have calculated that 160,000 people benefit directly from the improved care, while indirectly by which I mean the people around the patients too the reach is many times wider.’
The relationship between Nekemte Catholic Secretariat and Dioraphte has existed for fifteen years and has strengthened in recent years. Currently, the fund supports both educational and health programmes on an annual basis.