Friday, February 20, 2009

A Story from Addis

We've Lost Five Staff in One Ward
Thursday, November 30, 2006

MEDICS on the frontline of Ethiopia's fight against Aids are increasingly dying of the disease themselves. On World Aids Day, Metro Chief Reporter AIDAN RADNEDGE discovers the grim reality of the risks at one typical hospital in the country's stricken capital.

I have to be satisfied just prolonging someone's life a little.' Dr Wondewosen Desta is depressingly realistic about how much or little he can do, running perhaps the most beleaguered children's ward in Aidsridden Ethiopia. Every day at least 40 HIV-positive, emaciated children are checked in for a lengthy hospital stay, with hundreds more sent away, sure to return again soon.

But it is not just the survival rate among his young patients that concerns him – but also among his staff. In this ward alone, five employees, including two top doctors, have died in the last few years after contracting HIV in the course of their duties. It could be during a rushed blood transfusion, using inadequate protective gloves. Or a fatal infection could follow when blood gushes from a patient's wounds into a medic's eye.

Malnourished, wide-eyed children perch in cage-like beds on the wards, each one looking much younger than the ages given on the bedside charts. Those employees who are not sickened or killed by infection are often driven away by despair. About two-thirds of the 600 children on the hospital's books are under five. Six are thought to have contracted HIV through sexual assault.

Two-year-old Mersi Kassahum shows a chubby, baffled face on a barrel-chested torso yet a stick-spindly pair of drip-fed legs. She is HIV-positive, just like 23-yearold mother Nardos, both condemned by a father and husband long since fled, leaving them and a ten-strong extended family abandoned on the outskirts of the capital. Nardos seems philosophical as she insists: 'I don't want to really worry very much about HIV. What's done is done. So I have to live with it, for myself and my daughter.

'This is the only outlet that could mean my child survives. It's not important to worry about something that's already been done. It's not worth worrying about my husband now he's left. There's nothing I can do about it.'

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1 comment:

Angela said...

Hi Valerie,

Thanks for posting this. Again, this is dear to my heart. A husband and wife team of physicians from my area are in Ethiopia providing care for the next 3 years.

Original Court Date: April 18, 2009
Final Court Date: May 18, 2009
[607 total days & 165 days w/IAN]