We recently received an update from Doctors Giving Back, our in-field partner working in Ethiopia. Together we are connecting 1,000 children with vitamin A and 1,301 women with multivitamins. Read what Dan Prachar from Doctors Giving Back wrote to us about the project.
"I wanted to send a note to say thanks again for your support in providing vitamins for Doctors Giving Back…The children in the photographs are receiving the vitamin A are from two groups; the feeding program and the village health program. The "feeding program" consists mostly of HIV positive orphans who live in a squatters village near Addis Ababa. Their lives have been pretty brutal to say the least. They are only allowed to settle on the land with a few surviving relatives and our helpers because land is mostly unusable. It floods during the rainy season, and sits in a small, steep valley surrounded by an industrial development. While the government knows about the feeding program and allow us to use the land, we are technically not the owners so they kids are considered vagrants. As a result, they are not allowed access to any government or support resources, even the free HIV meds offered by the WHO or other NGOs...
Solomon Haile, who is our local representative, set up the feeding program when he heard of this village full of starving kids. Through Solomon, 68 kids now get one meal per day, so you can see how important the vitamins are. It is not as much as we would like, but it's all we can afford right now. We also give them clothes, shoes, medical care, and pay for each child to go to school. We also started a small chicken farm so they can get an occasional egg, and we hired them all as "chicken keepers" so they could quit [their jobs working long hours for only 50 cents a month]. So many stories here it would break your heart...
The village health program is mainly for women and children in very remote villages near the Sudan border. We do see men in the villages as well because they have almost no access to health care and the need is so great. The villages look like something you would imagine from a bible story; shoeless people in mud huts, farmers using ox drawn plows, no lights, electricity, telephone service, and no running water.
Women gather firewood, grind grain by hand, and cook, while the girls spend most of their day walking to get water. Over 60% of the population of Ethiopia walks 2 - 5 kilometers to find water, and if they have a big family, they may have to do this trip two or three times per day with heavy water jugs in tow. Water is rarely used for "frivolous" things like bathing, so most people's skin is like leather. Their diet is limited both in quantity and by the fact that they have to find it locally, so you can see why the vitamins are so important. Many women have goiters due to the lack of Iodine and poor soil. Since they often nurse for 2 years, this has very adverse affects on their babies.
We go to ten of these villages each year. Once we establish trust, [the community] will line up to see a doctor, and we have the parents line up the kids so we can give them Vitamin A. We also seek out the pregnant and nursing moms to provide them with annual supplies of vitamins to supplement their very poor diets.
Thanks again for helping us make a long term impact in these desperately poor areas."
-Dan Prachar from Doctors Giving Back
All photos courtesy of Doctors Giving Back