On Sunday morning I left for a 13-hour transatlantic flight headed direct to Addis Ababa from Washington, DC on an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 767. As I type this post in a darkened airplane cabin we are crossing the Atlantic at 37,000 feet and are nearing Portugal and Spain to then head due south over expansive North Africa where we’ll stop at the Horn in Ethiopia’s capital, landing a full seven hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time.
I will be traveling through Ethiopia, both in Addis Ababa and Hawassa, a city three hours south of the capital on Lake Hawassa, to observe the critical work of community health workers in clinics, health posts, and hospitals with Save the Children, the leading independent organization creating lasting change in the lives of children in need in the United States and around the world. Since 90% of Ethiopia’s 78 million people are rural subsistence farmers, community health workers are key to providing health care to those who do not have access to the care they might receive in Addis Ababa, for example.
Save the Children recently launched the Every Beat Matters campaign that shines a much-needed, and well-deserved spotlight on health workers in developing countries. It is through these health workers that newborn and child care can be improved. Access to proper and consistent care is a perpetual obstacle in countries where health workers are scarce. In many middle income and poor countries, particularly in rural areas, there may be one lone health worker for 10,000 people or more. This in itself is a gargantuan task for those who desperately need access to quality care. Community health workers also tend to care for their patients with much fewer supplies, medicines, and technology than what we are accustomed to in the States, posing yet another mammoth problem for health workers’ ability to provide care.
These health workers serve as the vital first line of defense against death and disease for people who consistently live with the threat of communicable disease, malnutrition and hunger, maternal and child mortality, and even general ailments we all experience. I will observe programs that aim to ameliorate the plight of health workers and their ability to do their jobs.
Also traveling with Save the Children this week are three highly distinguished nurses from the United States. As I document our observations, they will add a layer of information about health care I would otherwise not be privy to. Their life’s work is to care for others. It will be interesting to observe their perspectives on the work the health workers do in Ethiopia.
I will update my coverage every day and would be honored if you followed along.