A blonde woman in a white lab coat lifts an x-ray up to the window and six similarly clad young people gather round. Below them on a small iron bed lies a motionless child. Doctor Joanna Laycock is on her morning rounds at Hiwot Fana Specialized Hospital in Harar, surrounded by her students. “What are the signs of viral pneumonia?,” she asks. A student points to a clouded area of the x-ray. “And bacterial? What about tuberculosis?” An answer is murmured as Laycock nods and flicks away a fly.
The 31-year-old, British-born volunteer is six weeks into her one-year placement at the hospital’s pediatric ward. “This is completely eye-opening for me. I’m seeing things I’d never see had home,” she says. The most common cases are rheumatic fever, tuberculosis and malnutrition. There have been two fatal cases of tetanus since she arrived — something unheard of in the western world where vaccines have all but eradicated the bacterial illness.
My teammates (photographer Ethan Baron, and Catherine Beach, CUSO-VSO recruitment) and I have been on the road for the last few days, visiting volunteers in various placements in the east of the country. After speaking with Laycock, we meet up with Susan Davies-Jones in the medical school building adjacent to the hospital. From Northern Ireland, the 31-year-old midwife has a placement as an instructor. This morning she’s excited. “My furniture has arrived,” she says triumphantly as a desk and computer are loaded into her office. Although her project is to take students into communities and assess health needs and apply her knowledge to practices such as breast feeding, she hasn’t been able to get started yet. “I’ve spent the past month sharing offices and sitting in the hall.” A big smile spreads across her face. “Now I have a home base. It feels fantastic.”
THE ITALIAN CONNECTION
• Ethiopia was never colonized, but Italy occupied the country during WWII
• Pizza and pasta are on just about every menu
• An Ethiopian red wine that isn’t too bad is Gouder, costs around 60 birr for 750 ml (around $4 US)
• Restaurants have 2 prices – local and Ferengi.