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Re-equipping war-torn hospital resumes care in the Amhara region

news | Ethiopia | Mar 31, 2022

In early March, five Ethiopian ophthalmologists arrived at Kombolcha airport and headed to an outreach at Boru Meda Hospital, a small health center on the outskirts of Dessie.

The 15-mile road from the airport to the hospital twists and turns, cutting back into itself as it climbs more than 5,000 feet into the mountains.

The view along Route A2 shows off the steep landscape of the mountains in the Amhara region of Ethiopia, alive with trees, shrubs and vines blanketing the ragged hills. Cows, goats and even monkeys are a common sight along the only road up the mountains. In stark contrast to the serene rural landscape, the roadside is dotted with exploded vehicles and destroyed artillery cannons.

When fighting broke out in Ethiopia in late 2020, much of the protracted conflict was contained in the northern part of the country. Over the following months it would spread further into Ethiopia, including to the Amhara region. As soldiers made their way to Dessie, so did the disturbances to every-day-life.

The conflict made it impossible for the people of the region to receive eye care and, without options, simply waited.

As the conflict eased and the state of emergency lifted, medical teams returned to Boru Meda Hospital to find all the medical equipment smashed, destroyed, or raided by the occupying soldiers. The year-long battle for control of the area left medical teams without the equipment needed to provide eye care services.

HCP was the first NGO to answer a call for aid from the federal government of Ethiopia and was able to quickly equip the hospital with new microscopes and supplies for surgeries. With equipment and supplies in place, a team of all-Ethiopian ophthalmologists set to work to quickly resume eye care through a multi-day surgical event.

The team of surgeons included Dr. Yonas Abreham, Dr. Yemisirach Hailu, Dr Feven Tadesse, Dr. Abu Beyene, and a specialized cataract surgeon, Yemisirach. The need at the outreach was so great that after five days additional doctors, Dr. Beminet Feleke and Dr. Wossen Mulugetawere, were brought into to keep the outreach going.

The scene at the Boru Meda Hospital was alive and buzzing. Local vendors sold food and coffee to patients and providers at every corner of the hospital's campus. Alongside the surgeons and 16 ophthalmic nurses, over 100 people worked in various capacities to make the surgical event a success for a grateful and welcoming community.

The medical team worked for a week straight, restoring sight to over 1,500 people. Many of the patients had waited for over a year to receive care.

After the first day of surgeries, representatives from the federal and zonal government were on hand, celebrating the success of the outreach and lauding HCP and the local teams for stepping up to meet the demand in such quick fashion.

“There is a huge amount of respect for HCP in this area for what they have done,” Sisay Tebeje Asmare, the Boru Meda Hospital Chief Executive Officer said. “They have helped us focus on long-term capacity building which has been invaluable to us. This outreach and helping re-equip the hospital have been incredibly important both politically and from a humanitarian perspective.”

Photo caption: Boru Meda Hospital CEO, Sisay Tebeje Asmaren (left), stands with HCP program manager Lemlem Aylele at the hospital during an outreach in March 2022.

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