A working holiday!

Dr Sue Thomas and Dr Naomi Gillingham have just come back from a packed two-week trip in Ethiopia, where they delivered an antenatal course to midwives and health extension workers, oversaw the arrival of the new motorcycle ambulance as well as checking on the progress of our other projects.

Bristol-based GP Naomi Gillingham delivered two two-day training courses to around 50 health extension workers and eight midwives. The courses focused largely on trying to reduce the deaths of new mothers and their babies and taught antenatal delivery, postnatal care and baby resuscitation. Using an overhead projector and films dubbed in Amharic – the native Ethiopian language – helped the process run smoothly and it’s thought the courses were greatly received.

Sue and Naomi also handed over the county’s first motorbike ambulance, primarily designed to reduce the risk of birthing complications. The ambulance, dedicated to the memory of Naomi’s mum, was handed over in a joyous ceremony to the chief health officer and will greatly increase the chance of women in labour being able to reach their nearest health centre and give birth in cleaner, safer surroundings.

Similar motorbike ambulances have been trialled across other parts of rural Africa, including southern Ethiopia, Mali and South Africa, and we have high hopes that it will be a success.

The Addis Alem area now has a total of two ambulances to cater for a population of roughly 140,000 – not great but a start!

The major success this year has been the laying of the foundation stone for this new hostel, made possible by the local authorities in Addis Alem, who have kindly given us a site, and a large donation from a very generous supporter which will cover most of the building costs. We are very grateful, as are the girls.

On another note, we also continue our work to improve the basic facilities in primary schools across Addis Alem. During Sue and Naomi’s recent trip, 700 children from Dobi Primary School came out to greet them at the opening of their six-bay girls’ dry toilet block. Previously, the girls had had to share the boys’ toilets, so this was a hugely positive moment for them. At the opening, the children read poems they had written and performed a play about the difficulties they faced in accessing clean water.


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