Metehara is a town in central Ethiopia in the Oromia Region, four hours drive from the capital Addis Ababa. It’s inhabitants are mainly Afar and Somali clans.
We set off early by road to Metehara on Sunday January 6th stopping on the way at Adama General Hospital to pick up our stored equipment. The Regional Health Bureau provided EFA wiyh an Isuzu truck free of charge. The road to Metehara was good having recently been constructed by a Chinese Company.
When we arrived in Metehara that afternoon we found our accommodation and then made our way to the Catholic Clinic which was nine kms further down the road. There we were greeted by the nuns at the Catholic Medical Centre who had not been told we were coming to conduct a cataract clinic. Fortunately they were very accommodating and reorganised their rooms (moving one of their guests from his bedroom) so we could set up our theatre, anaesthetic room and storeroom in the guest house. The adjacent building was used for out patients. As the town had no prior knowledge of our arrival we had plenty of time to set up our equipment.
The Catholic community rallied around announcing our arrival in the market, at church , via radio and by driving around with a megaphone.
The Medical Centre staff organised operating tables, stools, benches, etc so that we could set up our clinic. The cleaners washed the rooms thoroughly, hanging curtains for the operating theatre and anaesthetic room. The cleaner, guards and translator were hired from the locals.
Despite a prior agreement with the local government our transport to and from the clinic was very unreliable. Each day we were left relying on the Brothers, bajajs (3 wheel taxis), horse and buggy or local minibuses that overcharged us.
At the clinic Sister Sarah, Sister Genet and Sister Fikrter looked after us every day cooking our breakfast and lunch for a reasonable price.
Our accommodation was at the Abune Pension in Metehara. It did have air con but hot showers were a matter of luck. The town was dusty and noisy because of the large number of heavy large vehicles on their way to Djibouti.
Father Fitesse from the Catholic Clinic travelled out to the surrounding villages, Mezka, Mezka Sadi, Sabure and Arage to announce the arrival of EFA. He told all people with visual problems to meet at the clinic school where they could be screened by the EFA staff.
Dr Sarmad and Annie screened 250 people on the first day. Fifty were deemed suitable for cataract surgery.
After the first day the journey for these people was made very difficult as Afar and Somali groups began fighting over a land dispute. Cars travelling along the roads were being burnt. All transport was stopped in both directions for two days. After the dispute died down thirty three people arrived at our clinic and were operated on to remove their cataracts.
The Sisters provided the patients with a meal of bread, banana and tea. They also organised a recovery room with beds for the post op patients.
The post op recovery room just had mats for beds. But these were poor rural peasants who would have mostly slept the same way in their villages.
Knitted hats made by Laraine, a volunteer in Australia, were handed out along with sunglasses to the patients the day after their operation.
Many patients walked long distances or travelled by local buggies to get to and from the clinic.
We were delighted to have Cataract Surgeon, Seid Idris, with us for the first time during this campaign. Eyes For Africa sponsored Seid in 2008 to study for four years at Jimma University to be a cataract surgeon. He graduated in 2012 with honours and now works in Jinka in the south of Ethiopia supported by Orbis International.
Each morning Seid did post op checks on the patients who were operated on the day before. He is an excellent surgeon, careful and steady with positive surgical outcomes.
Robert taught volunteer Stuart correct handling and sterilising of ophthalmic instruments.
Dr Balan, taught Opthalmic nurse Hawlett peribulbar regional anaesthetic technique. She also observed him performing subteneon eye blocks.
Dr Balan taught Dr Sarmad subtenon regional anaesthetic. Julie taught Dr Sarmad and Annie basic biometry.
We referred three patients to Adama General Hospital in Nazaret for specialized assessment and treatment. Halima had a Squamous cell carcinoma removed from her conjunctiva. EFA paid for her operation. Fatuma, a three year old girl had an enucleation for retinoblastoma. Her treatment is being funded by Dr Sarmad Akkach. Buntu, thirteen year old is being treated for lymphoma and referred to Mekelli hospital in Addis for treatment. Dr Balan and Annie are funding her treatment.
Jundi, our ‘man on the ground’ organised the transport and escorted the three patients to Adama hospital 1 1/2 hours drive away to meet Dr Amare.
CLOSE OF THE CAMPAIGN
The local staff local staff who contributed to the success were presented with certificates, a gift and small amount of Birr, the local currency.
The Catholic community held a traditional coffee ceremony for us to show their appreciation. In Ethiopia it is an honour to have a coffee ceremony organised for you.
1163 patients were screened
160 cataract successful cataract operations
1 Pterygium was done and 10 reading glasses were given out.
There was no prior announcement of EFA’s eye campaign given which delayed us by a day while the news of our clinic was sent out.
There was no dedicated transport to and from clinic provided for us which delayed our start time each day. We had difficulty getting a gas bottles filled for our sterilizing. Tribal fighting on the road prevented our patients travelling from their villages to our eye clinic.
The Ethiopian public holidays, Xmas day and Epiphany day also delayed us.
After travelling back to Addis Ababa Robert and Julie met with the Australian Ambassador in Ethiopia Peter Doyle. He was very impressed with our work and agreed to help in any way he can with our future campaigns.
We also met Dr Derijie Head of Oromia Regional Health, Dr Mengestu and Zerihun. They listened to all our grievances and struggles and have agreed to be more supportive in the future.