Health Section

Africans Give Back: How the U.S. African Diaspora is Fighting Ebola Back Home

Africa Responds is an online Ebola response initiative launched by TMS Ruge, a U.S.-based entrepreneur from Uganda and Ethiopian-born Solome Lemma, Founder of the NYC-based NGO Africans in the Diaspora.

The Deseret News National Edition

By Kimberly Curtis

The idea came to TMS Ruge one evening in September while at home in New York, skimming Twitter for stories on Ebola. A native of Uganda who grew up in East Africa and the U.S., Ruge was struck that much of the coverage depicted Africans only as victims. Little mention was made of their potential role in wiping out the deadly epidemic.

As an entrepreneur and communications consultant, Ruge, 38, understands the power of ideas and information. He figured Americans needed to be made more aware that Africans were providing most of the frontline care. He was also determined to do something about it.

He approached his friend Solome Lemma, an immigrant from Ethiopia who is executive director of Africans in the Diaspora, an organization based in New York that works to connect Africans living in the U.S. to development projects back home.

Together they launched Africa Responds, an online fundraising initiative that partners with four African-led organizations working in Liberia. In less than two months, their campaign raised nearly $20,000 and significantly raised the profile through social media of African efforts against Ebola.

Ruge and Lemma are among a new generation of the U.S. African diaspora determined to contribute to the development of their home continent, including the fight against Ebola.

“We want to insert ourselves into the conversation because the Africans on the ground are the ones really doing the work, but it is the international organizations getting the credit,” said Ruge. “If people are too busy trying to stay alive, they don’t really have the ability to tell their stories. But if we are here to share those stories, it helps in the fight.”

The U.S Census Bureau estimates that 1.5 million people born in Africa now live in the United States. Another 2 million self-identify with the diaspora because they have dual citizenship or grew up in Africa. Almost half of the diaspora has arrived since 2000, with Liberia and Sierra Leone — two of the countries at the epicenter of the Ebola crisis — making up 20 percent of these recent arrivals.

Africa Responds and its partners have an advantage in fighting Ebola that most international aid agencies lack: Knowledge of local languages and culture goes a long way in educating people about the disease and convincing them to change daily habits.

Above all, these groups enjoy Africans’ trust, gained through years of living and working in local communities, many of which are suspicious of outsiders and therefore often bypassed in international aid efforts.

Read more »

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Ethiopia Holds Farewell Gala for Volunteer Doctors Headed to Ebola-Hit Countries

A farewell gala in Addis Ababa on December 15th, 2014 for the Ethiopian health care workers that are deployed in West Africa. (Photograph: Twitter)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

New York (TADIAS) – One hundred eighty-seven health professionals from Ethiopia will be arriving in Ebola-hit West African countries this week. According to Ethiopia’s Minister of Health Dr. Kesete Admasu, who made the announcement via Twitter on Monday, the Ethiopian volunteers will assist in the global efforts underway in the region. Dr. Kesete tweeted: “[Ethiopia] is now the largest volunteer contributor to the Ebola response in Africa.”

The health care workers will be deployed in the three most-affected nations — Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea.

Dr. Kesete stated: “The Ambassador of Liberia to Ethiopia on behalf of the 3 countries thanked the volunteers and the government of Ethiopia for the solidarity.”



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White House Urges Congress to Approve $6.2 Billion Emergency Ebola Funding

President Barack Obama speaks at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland about the fight against Ebola on Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014. (Photograph: The Associated Press)

VOA News

By Aru Pande

WHITE HOUSE— President Barack Obama is urging U.S. lawmakers, before they leave for the holiday recess in a few weeks, to pass $6.2 billion in emergency funding to fight the Ebola virus and prepare U.S. hospitals to handle future cases.

Speaking Tuesday at the National Institutes of Health near Washington, Obama said money to battle the disease is running out and that Congress could give a Christmas present to the American people and the world by passing a spending bill.

The president toured NIH laboratories and congratulated researchers on completion of phase 1 clinical trials of a potential vaccine to treat Ebola, which clears the way for it to go to clinical trials in West Africa. He called it “exciting news” that a potential vaccine produced no serious side effects during first-phase testing, noting that no other potential Ebola drug had progressed this far to date.

However, Obama stressed that there was no guarantee the vaccine would work and that the fight was not close to being over, even if media attention had shifted to other issues. He noted the outbreak has gotten worse in countries like Sierra Leone, where infections and the death toll have risen in recent weeks.

“Every hotspot is an ember that, if not contained, can become a new fire. So we cannot let down our guard even for a minute,” he said.

“If we are going to actually solve it for ourselves, we have to solve it in West Africa as well,” he added.

Contingency funds

Most of Obama’s request is aimed at the immediate response to the disease at home and abroad. But the package also includes $1.5 billion in contingency funds — money that could become a target if lawmakers decided to trim the bill.

“That is the part of the package that is most at risk,” said Sam Worthington, president of InterAction, an alliance of U.S. nongovernmental aid groups.

While lawmakers recognize that the United States has to take action to arrest the deadly disease, some are wary of giving the administration leeway in investing money in public health systems in West Africa.

“I think there is less understanding of the need to stay in it for the long run and to build the capacity of countries to ensure this doesn’t happen in the future,” Worthington said.

In its overseas response, the United States has scaled up deployment of American personnel in West Africa — with 200 civilians and 3,000 service members on the ground.

At the NIH, Obama said efforts to battle Ebola at its source are showing results, particularly in Liberia, where the U.S. has built three of 10 planned Ebola treatment units, and the number of beds for Ebola patients is expected to reach 2,000 by early next year.

“We’ve ramped up the capacity to train hundreds of new health workers per week,” Obama said. “We have improved burial practices across Liberia. And as a consequence, we have seen some encouraging news — a decline in infection rates in Liberia.”

Ebola has killed about 6,000 people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, along with a handful of people in other countries.

The Obama administration came under fire in September after a series of protocol missteps involving an Ebola patient who traveled to Dallas from Liberia and later died. Two nurses contracted the disease while caring for the man.

The president also touted progress in the U.S. fight against the disease, saying the number of American hospitals prepared to deal with Ebola has increased from just three facilities to 35 nationwide in the last two months, and the number of laboratories testing for Ebola has increased from 13 to 42 since August.

Screening and treatment procedures have since been tightened, and there are no current U.S. cases.

“My hope is that we’re not getting Ebola fatigue setting in,” said Bruce Johnson, president of SIM USA, a Christian missionary group that helps treat Ebola patients in Liberia. “There continues to be a huge need for this funding.”

Some information for this report came from Reuters.



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Ethiopia Tests Thousands for HIV in Record Attempt

In this photo of Sunday Nov 30, 2014. Ethiopians lineup for an AIDS test, in Gambella, Ethiopia. (AP)

The Associated Press

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — More than 3,300 people were tested for HIV Sunday in the Ethiopian region of Gambella, a massive turnout that exceeded expectations among AIDS campaigners who had hoped to test 2,000 people, according to local officials.

Rahel Gettu, an official with the U.N. Aids agency in Ethiopia, said they believe they broke the world record for the number of HIV tests carried out in one day. She said their claim was yet to be verified and confirmed by Guinness World Records.

She said 3,383 people were tested for HIV within eight hours in a single event ahead of World Aids Day. Eighty-two of them received positive results.

About 6.5 percent of Gambella residents have HIV or AIDS, a rate higher than the national average of 1.5 percent. Officials hope that voluntary AIDS testing in this region that borders South Sudan can lead to a reduction in the number of new infections.

“It will help to bring together communities. It helps people to know their status in order to make informed choices about their lives forward,” said Seid Alemu, a director at Ethiopia’s Federal HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Office, referring to voluntary testing for HIV.

Read more »

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Ethiopia to Deploy 210 Volunteers to Ebola-Hit Countries Within Two Weeks

Ebola response roadmap prepared by the Word Health Organization, October 17th, 2014. (Credit: WHO)

Xinhua/Shanghai Daily

Nov 26,2014

ADDIS ABABA – Ethiopia on Tuesday announced that it will be deploying about 210 volunteers to Ebola-hit West African countries in two weeks.

Responding to the call of the African Union (AU) and the World Health Organization (WHO) in the country’s commitment to the African solidarity, Ethiopia earlier pledged to provide support to the Ebola-affected West African countries by deploying health professionals, said Ahmed Imano, Director of Public Relations and Communication at the Ministry of Health.

Ahmed said the East African country had also pledged to provide financial support amounting half a million U.S. dollars to support the intervention in addressing the epidemic.

To implement the pledge, Ethiopia has recruited the 210 volunteers out of the 1,100 registered volunteers, according to the director, who was speaking to the press in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa.

The volunteers would be deployed in the three most affected countries — Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea.

Read more »
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New York Ebola Patient Leaves Hospital

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio hugs Dr. Craig Spencer as he is discharged from Bellevue Hospital, after being stricken by Ebola, in New York Nov. 11, 2014. (Photo: Reuters)

VOA News

November 11, 2014

A New York doctor who is the last known Ebola victim in the United States has been cured of the deadly disease and left a hospital on Tuesday.

Officials at a New York hospital say that “after a rigorous course of treatment and testing,” 33-year-old Craig Spencer has been declared free of the Ebola virus. They said he “poses no public health risk.”

Spencer, working for Doctors Without Borders, contracted Ebola while treating patients in Guinea and was hospitalized after returning to the U.S. last month. He was experiencing fever, nausea, pain and fatigue and the fact that he went bowling and traveled on New York’s vast subway system sparked fears that Ebola could spread in the country’s largest city. He has been in isolation at New York’s Bellevue Hospital while undergoing treatment.

As he left the hospital, he told a news conference that his recovery shows the need for early detection and treatment of the disease. Now, he says the focus ought to shift back to West Africa, the center of the Ebola outbreak, and pleaded for public support for foreign medical workers treating Ebola victims.

“Please join me in turning our attention back to West Africa and ensuring that medical volunteers and other aid workers do not face stigma and threats upon their return home,” said Spencer. “Volunteers need to be supported to help fight this outbreak at its source.”

In a separate Ebola scare in the U.S., the 21-day Ebola incubation period has ended for a nurse, Kaci Hickox, who treated patients in Sierra Leone, although she never tested positive for Ebola. She fought strict quarantine demands in two states, but eventually agreed to medical monitoring, which ended at midnight Monday.

Only one Ebola patient has died in the United States, but underfunded health facilities in West Africa have been overwhelmed by the disease. Ebola has infected 13,000 people, killing nearly 5,000.

Video: Retracing steps of N.Y. Ebola patient (CNN)


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Africa Sets Up $28.5m Ebola Crisis Fund

Of the West African countries hit by the 11-month outbreak, Liberia has seen the most deaths. (BBC)

BBC News

Top African business leaders have established an emergency fund to help countries hit by the Ebola outbreak.

A pledging meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, raised $28.5m to deploy at least 1,000 health workers to Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Experts say that if the disease is to be speedily contained, it needs to be tackled in these three countries.

Nearly 5,000 people out of about 14,000 cases have been killed by the virus, most of them in Liberia.

Ebola deaths in West Africa Up to 4 November
4,960 Deaths – probable, confirmed and suspected (Includes one death in US and one in Mali)
2,766 Liberia
1,130 Sierra Leone
1,054 Guinea
8 Nigeria
Source: WHO

Speaking at the end of the Addis Abada meeting, African Union chairman Dlamini Zuma said the resources mobilised would be part of a longer term programme to deal with such outbreaks in the future.

Read more at BBC News »

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Climate-Driven Migration Increasing Disease Burden in Ethiopia

(Photo: trust.org)

By Kagondu Njagi

Gondar — When increasingly erratic weather ruined his crops of maize, wheat and barley in highland Maksegni, the middle-aged farmer migrated to Metemma, in northwest Ethiopia, to look for work in the lowland area’s commercial sesame and cotton plantations.

There he picked up more than work. Today the 39-year-old is infected with visceral leismaniasis – a disease commonly called kalaazar – and with HIV.

The father of two, who is being treated at the University of Gondar, is among an estimated 300,000 Ethiopians who migrate to the plantations near the Sudan border every year, looking for new sources of income as their farms struggle.

But as they flee from hunger, they enter into sandfly territory, and bites by the insects spread kalaazar, a parasitic disease that is usually fatal if untreated. The loneliness of being away from family also leaves them vulnerable to HIV, researchers say.

“It is a kalaazar endemic area,” explained Ermias Diro, a researcher at the university’s clinic. “A lot of people travel there to look for work and in the process they get bitten by the sandfly.”

“After working throughout the day in the farmland they rest under a tree where there is shade,” he added. “It is a very hot place and they may not be dressed fully, so they get bitten.”

FAILING CROPS, RISING MIGRATION

Experts have linked more irregular rainfall and crop failures to a rise in migrant workers in Ethiopia. Meteorologists said Maksegnit, in the highlands, should record as much as 1,059 millimeters of rainfall during the peak season, but in the last few years rainfall has been as low as 317 millimeters.

That has led to a decline in staple crop farming, while cash crop farming in the lowlands pulls the struggling poor from the highlands, and toward new health threats.

Read more »

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5,000 Ebola Health Care Workers Needed In West Africa: World Health Organization

Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (Tika) members deliver medical treatment and raise awareness of Ebola outbreak in Kolda, southern Senegal on October 24, 2014. (Photo: Getty Images)

The Associated Press

KAMPALA, Uganda — Authorities are having trouble figuring out how many more people are getting Ebola in Liberia and Sierra Leone and where the hot spots are in those countries, harming efforts to get control of the raging, deadly outbreak, the U.N.’s top Ebola official in West Africa said Tuesday.

“The challenge is good information, because information helps tell us where the disease is, how it’s spreading and where we need to target our resources,” Anthony Banbury told The Associated Press by phone from the Ghanaian capital of Accra, where the U.N. Mission for Ebola Emergency Response, or UNMEER, is based.

Health experts say the key to stopping Ebola is breaking the chain of transmission by tracing and isolating those who have had contact with Ebola patients or victims. Health care workers can’t do that if they don’t know where new cases are emerging.

“And unfortunately, we don’t have good data from a lot of areas. We don’t know exactly what is happening,” said Banbury, the chief of UNMEER.

Banbury, who visited the three most affected countries last week, said it was “heartbreaking” to see families torn apart by Ebola as they struggle to care for sick loves ones while also hoping to avoid infection. He said he is hoping for a new approach in Liberia as the U.N. and its partners work to improve the capacity of communities to safely bury victims.

Over the past week, Banbury met with the presidents of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, where the vast majority of the more than 10,000 Ebola cases have occurred, the U.N. said.

Meanwhile, the president of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, said the three countries need at least 5,000 more health workers to effectively fight the epidemic.

Kim said Tuesday that he is worried about where those health workers can be found given the widespread fear of Ebola. Quarantining health workers returning to their home countries — as some U.S. states are doing — could also hurt recruitment efforts. The World Bank president spoke alongside U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and African Union Chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where the AU is headquartered.

As more countries close their borders with or severely restrict travel from the affected countries, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf pleaded Tuesday with the world to not turn its back on those suffering.

“We’d just like the international community to continue to see this as a global threat, that stigmatization, exclusion, restriction is not the appropriate response to this,” she said.

Read more »

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Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

In Little Ethiopia, Palliative Care Means Dignity for Ethiopian American Elders

Hayim Tovim Adult Day Health Care center located in the heart of the Little Ethiopia neighborhood along Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles, California. (Photo: NAM)

New America Media

By Julian Do, Posted: Oct 18, 2014

LOS ANGELES–Until last spring, Tesfaldey Meshesha and his wife, who came to the United States from Ethiopia in 2008, used to be regulars at Hayim Tovim Adult Day Health Care center located in the heart of the Little Ethiopia along Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles. Here, they joined in aerobic dancing, socialized, lunched with friends and received medical check ups.

But these days, Meshesha, 76, the former manager of Wonji Shoa Sugar Factory, one of Ethiopia’s largest of its kind, comes alone, as his wife has contracted bone cancer.

“No matter what, my wife has to be taken care of by me at home. Transferring her to a nursing home would be unthinkable because I don’t think any nursing or hospital facilities here can provide our cultural ways of respect and dignity to the elders,” said Meshesha with tears in his eyes. He was polite but clearly didn’t want to talk about his wife’s illness further.

Read more at newamericamedia.org »

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Ebola Crisis: World Health Organization Signals Help for Africa to Stop Spread

(Image: Ebola outbreaks, deaths in Africa, as of Oct. 10, 2014/VOA)

BBC News

The World Health Organization is to “ramp up” efforts to prevent Ebola spreading beyond the three countries most affected by the deadly virus.

Fifteen African countries are being prioritised, top WHO official Isabelle Nuttall told a Geneva news conference.

They will receive more help in areas including prevention and protection.

But former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has said he is “bitterly disappointed” with the international community’s response.

In an interview with the BBC’s Newsnight programme, Mr Annan said richer countries should have moved faster.

“If the crisis had hit some other region it probably would have been handled very differently.

“In fact when you look at the evolution of the crisis, the international community really woke up when the disease got to America and Europe. And yet we should have known that in this interconnected world it was only a matter of time.”

Read more at BBC News »

Obama Authorizes National Guard Call-Up to Fight Ebola in West Africa


President Barack Obama holds a meeting with federal agencies coordinating the government’s Ebola response, on Oct. 15, 2014. (Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Newseek Magazine

By Lucy Westcott

Updated: 10/16/14

President Barack Obama authorized a call-up of the National Guard and additional military reservists to active duty on Thursday in case they are needed to address the humanitarian crisis that has resulted from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Obama signed an executive order and also notified congressional officials, The Associated Press reported.

In a letter to Rep. John Boehner, speaker of the House of Representatives, Obama said he is authorizing the secretary of defense and the secretary of homeland security to call up reservists to “augment the active forces in support of Operation United Assistance.”

Read more at Newsweek.com »

West African Teen Taunted With Chants of ‘Ebola’ at High School Soccer Game


Ibrahim Toumkara claims that his rivals from another Pennsylvania high school started teasing him about the virus, simply because he is from West Africa. (Photo: WPVI)

The Root

BY: BREANNA EDWARDS

One Pennsylvania teen, who is originally from Guinea, recently had to endure his high school rival’s soccer team chanting “Ebola” at him during a match, WPVI reports.

According to the station, Ibrahim Toumkara, a Nazareth Area High School student and soccer player, got into a fight last week after he heard players from rival Northampton High School taunting him about the deadly virus, which has killed more than 4,000 people across West Africa, including in his home country.

“Being from western Africa and having family in that area, he didn’t take too kindly to those remarks and went after one of the players on the Northampton team,” the boy’s coach, Edward Bachert, explained. Bachert is also Ibrahim’s legal guardian, as well as a police chief for Lehigh County.

The 16-year-old moved away from Guinea three years ago, the station notes.

“There were tears coming down his eyes. He was visibly shaken by this, that it got to that level on the field,” Bachert added.

After the tasteless incident, both Northampton’s head soccer coach and its assistant coach resigned. Some of the student athletes are also expected to face disciplinary action, according to the station.

Read more at The Root.com »

Video: Did Ebola really cause the stock market drop? (MSNBC)


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Ethiopia Launches Ebola Testing Lab to Combat Epidemic

(Image credit: health.gov)

Sudan Tribune

By Tesfa-Alem Tekle

ADDIS ABABA – Ethiopia’s Ministry of Health on Sunday disclosed establishing a modern laboratory centre in a bid to scale up the nation wide efforts to prevent entry of the deadly Ebola virus.

The modern laboratory which is known as Bio safety level 3 and 4 will start operating on Monday for screening and tasting purpose with the help of Ethiopian professionals who received training abroad.

According to Health Minister Dr. kesetebirhan Admasu, the country has introduced a new screening machine, called Thermo Scan Thermo Meter, which has a capacity of testing 1,000 individuals per hour.

As well as the new screening machine, other two thermo screening machines are currently operating at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport to test passengers particularly those coming from West African countries.

Read more at Sudan Tribune »

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$25 M Grant Backs University of Michigan Health Project in Ethiopia, Other Nations

Dr. Senait Fisseha at St. Paul's Hospital Millennium Medical College in Addis Ababa. (Photo: UM)

University of Michigan

Press Release

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — With a $25 million grant from an anonymous donor, the University of Michigan will begin training doctors in Africa in reproductive health services not widely available to many women living in remote areas of the continent.

The grant will allow faculty at the U-M Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology to create a center for reproductive health training in order to increase the number of health professionals equipped to provide life-saving reproductive health care, especially to women whose families are poor.

“Every day, women across the globe are dying and suffering from poor health outcomes because they don’t have access to high quality, comprehensive reproductive health care,” says Senait Fisseha, M.D., J.D., the center’s director. Fisseha, who was born in Ethiopia, is a reproductive endocrinology and infertility specialist at the U-M Health System.

“We are overwhelmingly grateful for this extraordinary grant that allows us to build on our strong foundation of global reproductive health programs and continue to pursue a longtime dream to provide all women a full scope of high quality reproductive health care when and where they need it.”

Read more »

Video: $25 M grant backs U-M project to curb maternal deaths in Ethiopia (UM Health System)



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Spanish Nurse Becomes First Person to Contract Ebola Outside of Africa (Video)

In the first known case of Ebola transmission outside of Africa, a nurse who treated two victims of Ebola in Madrid has tested positive for the disease, the panish Health Minister Ana Mato has confirmed. (AP)

NBC News

A nurse in Spain has become the first person to contract Ebola outside of West Africa in the latest epidemic, authorities said on Monday.

The woman, who was described as a “sanitary tech,” last month treated a priest in Madrid who later died of Ebola after contracting the virus while doing missionary work in Sierra Leone.

The elderly priest, Manuel Garcia Viejo, was treated in Madrid’s Carlos III hospital, where he had been in quarantine since his return from Africa. He died on Sept. 25. The nurse entered the priest’s room twice: Once to treat him and once upon his death, to recover his belongings, officials said. She began showing signs of illness on Sept. 30 and sought treatment, they said.

Health authorities said the nurse earlier had also helped treat another priest, Miguel Pajares, 75, who had been working in Liberia when he was afflicted with Ebola. He was airlifted back to Spain on Aug. 7 and died five days later.

“We are working to verify the exact source of contact to see if all strict protocols were followed,” Spanish Health Minister Ana Mato said at a news conference on Monday.

Read more »

Video: Spanish Nurse Is First Person to Contract Ebola Outside of Africa (NBC News)


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Dallas Ebola Patient In Critical Condition

The Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, Sept. 30, 2014. (AP Photo)

The Huffington Post

By Amanda L. Chan

Dallas Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan is now in critical condition, according to information released Saturday afternoon by Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, the hospital where he is staying.

Duncan had previously been listed as being in serious condition. He was admitted to the hospital Sept. 28. His diagnosis with Ebola was confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control on Sept. 30.

Currently, there are about 50 people being monitored for Ebola after having known or possible contact with Duncan. Nine of these people had direct contact with Duncan, including his four relatives, with whom he was staying before he was sent to the hospital. The other 40 are being monitored for Ebola symptoms, but their contact with Duncan is less certain, health officials said today.

So far, none of the individuals being monitored by health officials are showing any signs of Ebola.

More from the Associated Press »

Video: The travels and health travails of Thomas Eric Duncan (CNN)


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First US Case of Ebola Diagnosed in Dallas
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First US Case of Ebola Diagnosed in Dallas

The Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, Sept. 30, 2014. (AP Photo)

VOA News

By Greg Flakus

HOUSTON — Doctors in Dallas, Texas say they have diagnosed the first case of Ebola in the United States. The patient, whose identity has not been revealed, arrived on a flight from Liberia earlier this month, but showed no signs of illness until a few days later.

The director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Thomas Frieden, says the patient infected with the Ebola virus was healthy when he or she left Liberia and while on the flight to the United States.

“This individual left Liberia on the 19th of September, arrived in the U.S. on the 20th of September, had no symptoms when departing Liberia or entering this country, but four or five days later, around the 24th of September, began to develop symptoms,” said Frieden.

Frieden stressed that until the symptoms appeared, the person posed no threat of infection to anyone else. He said authorities are now trying to identify anyone who may have had contact with the infected person during the period when the symptoms first appeared to the time the patient went to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas for treatment.

Those people will be closely monitored for a few weeks to make sure they did not contract the disease. A hospital spokesperson says the infected patient is in intensive care, but would not reveal any further information out of concern for the individual’s privacy.

Doctors working on this case say Ebola can be easily contained through good public health practices, immediate quarantine of anyone showing symptoms and monitoring of people with whom that person came into contact. Frieden says the virus cannot be transmitted through the air, but only through direct contact with bodily fluids from an infected person manifesting symptoms.

“While we do not currently know how this individual became infected, they undoubtedly had contact with someone who was sick with Ebola or who died from it,” he said.

Early symptoms of Ebola include fever, sore throat and muscle aches. As the disease progresses, it produces hemorrhagic fever, which can cause bleeding and organ failure.

Although American health workers who were diagnosed in Africa were flown back to the U.S. for treatment, the Texas man is the first patient to be diagnosed inside the United States.

Ebola has killed nearly 3,100 people and infected more than 6,500 in West Africa. Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are the most affected countries.

The virus causes uncontrollable bleeding, vomiting and diarrhea. It is spread by direct contact with the body fluids of infected patients.

There is no specific treatment, but an American doctor diagnosed with the virus was found to be Ebola-free after taking an experimental drug last month.

President Barack Obama has called Ebola a national security priority for the United States. He has called on the rest of the world to also regard it as a threat.

The Pentagon said Tuesday it is sending 700 U.S. soldiers to Liberia to help that country handle the outbreak. Seven hundred Army engineers also will help build treatment centers. No U.S. military personnel will provide direct care to Ebola patients.

Elsewhere in West Africa, the CDC said Tuesday it looks like the Ebola outbreak in Nigeria has been contained. Officials said there have been no new cases since August 31, and the 21-day monitoring period of those who came in contact with those infected ends Thursday. There were 19 confirmed Ebola cases in Nigeria.

The CDC also says Senegal avoided an Ebola epidemic when authorities there isolated that country’s only Ebola case in August.

Twelve other people in the U.S. have been tested for Ebola since July 27. The CDC said all those tests came back negative.

The White House says President Barack Obama discussed the CDC’s stringent isolation procedures with Frieden, who noted that the CDC was prepared for an Ebola case in the U.S.

The data health officials have seen in the past few decades since Ebola was discovered indicate that it is not spread through casual contact or through the air. Ebola is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids of a sick person or exposure to objects such as needles that have been contaminated.

The illness has an average 8-10 day incubation period (although it ranges from 2 to 21 days); CDC recommends monitoring exposed people for symptoms a complete 21 days. People are not contagious after exposure unless they develop symptoms.

Some information for this report provided by Reuters.

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Rachel Nega: Ethiopian Doctor in Israel Breaking Barriers

In her work as a doctor, Rachel Nega says she hopes to bridge some of "the huge gaps between different communities" in Israel. (The Jewish Week)

The Jewish Week

By Hannah Dreyfus

Staff Writer

Wearing a white coat, name badge and stethoscope, Dr. Rachel Nega strides through the halls of Manhattan’s Mount Sinai Hospital. To patients and visitors, she looks like any other doctor on duty — slightly preoccupied, with a deliberate air to her step. Yet her dark skin and almond eyes hint at her unique background.

Nega, 29, is the first Israeli-Ethiopian doctor to intern at Mount Sinai, an opportunity that came through the joint efforts of an Israeli nonprofit and an Israeli-American philanthropist. During the summer internship, she worked under the guidance of Dr. Martin Goldman, a leading cardiologist who heads the echocardiography lab at Mount Sinai.

“This experience will shape my future,” says Nega over coffee in the Mount Sinai lobby.

Nega, who is in her third year of medical school at Tel Aviv University, hopes to practice medicine in Israel’s “peripheries,” the parts of the country where specialized medical professionals are sparse. Her goal is to work with immigrants and those from impoverished backgrounds.

Though Nega didn’t enter the internship knowing what medical specialty she wanted to pursue, she now is seriously considering cardiology. “The potential for innovation is huge,” she said.

Nega’s story is just one of many demonstrating how the Israeli-Ethiopian community has overcome significant hurdles in the past few decades. A first-generation Israeli, Nega’s parents emigrated from Ethiopia to Israel in November 1984 during Operation Moses, the mass migration of Ethiopian Jews out of Sudan.

Read more at The Jewish Week »

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Ethiopian American Doctors Release Communiqué on Ebola Outbreak

U.S.-based NGO, People to People (P2P), is a global network of Ethiopian health care professionals. (Courtesy Photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Friday, September 19, 2014

New York (TADIAS) – So far East Africa has been spared from the Ebola outbreak that’s ravaging western parts of the continent. But that’s no comfort says an association of Ethiopian doctors in the Diaspora, People to People (P2P), which issued a communiqué on Friday expressing its solidarity with fellow medical workers in West Africa. “We, as health care professionals of African descent, stand shoulder to shoulder with our colleagues in those countries and ask for immediate action to alleviate and control this epidemic,” the U.S.-based NGO announced. P2P members are gathered in Washington, D.C. this weekend for the organization’s 6th annual conference on health care and medical education.

“[Let's] pause for a moment and ask why we got here in the first place,” P2P stated. “This epidemic, as deadly as it is, should not have come to such a proportion if the world community acted swiftly and with an urgency that it deserves.” The communiqué adds: “We want to emphasize that this is an opportunity to galvanize the momentum created to envision a center of excellence in infectious diseases in Africa. The creation and funding of African Centers for Disease Control must be given priority and be set in motion as soon as possible. From those not affected by this epidemic, we ask due attention to health care infrastructure and manpower development before emergency strikes. From the African Union, UN, major donors and the world at large we ask for an immediate financial, manpower and equipment assistance to those countries who are heavily affected by the epidemic.”

The P2P statement comes on the heels of a U.S. Congressional hearing on the crisis held this week (Wednesday, September 17th) by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Africa, featuring testimony from Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at National Institutes of Health (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services); Ted Alemayhu, Founder & Executive Chairman of US Doctors for Africa; and Dr. Dougbeh Chris Nyan, Director of the Secretariat at the Diaspora Liberian Emergency Response Task Force on the Ebola Crisis.

In his testimony Ted Alemayhu told members of Congress that in addition to a severe shortage of healthcare professionals in Ebola affected countries — in some cases averaging “one doctor for 50,000 people” — protective medical gear such as masks, gloves, and gowns, are badly needed. “Local healthcare workers have threatened to quit their services if their safety is not insured with delivery of these items,” he said. “And who could blame them.”

Video: U.S. House Hearing: Global Efforts to Fight Ebola


Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream

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The World Yawns as Ebola Takes Hold in West Africa

(Getty Images)

The Washington Post

By Richard E. Besser (Chief health editor at ABC News)

In Monrovia, the blue steel gates guarding JFK Medical Center’s Ebola ward separate two worlds, each hopeless. On one side, three Liberians lie huddled on the ground under a UNICEF shelter, waiting to get in. On the other side, a flatbed truck loaded with 10 bodies in white plastic bags waits to drive out.

The truck belongs to one of four burial teams who pluck the dead from treatment wards — or worse, from homes where terrified families huddle around loved ones, desperate for one last touch. For many Liberians, giving a body to the burial team for cremation is unthinkable. Yet those last touches — part of Liberian funeral practices — are the very things that spread Ebola.

I follow the burial team to a home said to hold five bodies, all Ebola victims. As rain falls and a crowd gathers, the team members from the truck put on white suits and masks and set out down a narrow alley to the home. In 10 minutes, they are back. There were only two dead in the home, and the family told them to leave. “It isn’t Ebola,” they said. No time to find out if they were right — there are many more bodies to collect.

Read more at The Washington Post »

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How Ethiopia Solved Its Abortion Problem

Zebiba waits for her abortion to be completed. (Photo: Heather Horn/GlobalPost

Global Post

By Heather Horn

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — Zebiba, 28, sits in her purple headscarf in the small clinic room, the cramping already beginning. She took the tablets early this morning. She is three months pregnant.

By 2 p.m., her abortion should be complete. She will return to her two children, now at school. She is divorcing their father, who has taken a second wife.

Thus far, she has refused pain medications. Her relief at the ease of this termination is palpable. “She was nervous coming here,” says the nurse.

A generation ago, botched abortions were the single biggest contributor to Ethiopia’s sky-high maternal mortality rate. Doctors in the largest public hospital in Addis Ababa, where Zebiba lives, still remember the time when three-quarters of the beds in the maternal ward were reserved purely for complications from such procedures.

Then, in 2005, the country liberalized its abortion law.

Today, it’s hard to find a health provider who’s seen more than one abortion-related death in the past five years. Although access to safe procedures and high quality care could still be expanded, doctors say that, increasingly, those who need an abortion can get one safely.

But this success story has a catch: abortion is still illegal. Only under very limited circumstances is it allowed, and Zebiba’s case does not fall into one of the specified categories.

Many of the women whose lives doctors and NGOs have saved in the past few years have been ushered through a legal loophole — and it’s possible that’s what the government intended all along.

Read more at globalpost.com »

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Ebola Travel: South Africa Bans Incomers From West Africa

(Photo: EPA)

BBC News

South Africa says non-citizens arriving from Ebola-affected areas of West Africa will not be allowed into the country, with borders closed to people from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

All non-essential outgoing travel to the affected countries has been banned.

Senegal also said it was suspending flights with Ebola-affected countries, and closing the border with Guinea.

Cameroon and the Ivory Coast earlier imposed travel bans, despite World Health Organization warnings not to.

Medium-risk

South African nationals will be allowed to re-enter the country when returning from high-risk countries, but will undergo strict screening, the health ministry said on Thursday.

Usual screening procedures are in place for those who travel between Nigeria, Kenya and Ethiopia, which have been defined as medium-risk countries.

Read more at BBC News »

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Ethiopia Braces for Ebola Treatment

A doctor displays collected samples of the Ebola virus at the Centre for Disease Control in Entebbe, about 37km (23 miles) southwest of Uganda's capital. (Photo: Reuters)

The Reporter

By Berhanu Fekade

Addis Ababa - A new Ebola treatment hospital with ten beds, and with the possible expansion to 50 beds, has already been set and equipped with medical staffs, Dr. Keseteberhan Admassu, Minister of Health told reporters on Thursday.

The facility is designed to treat Ebola – for which there are no observed cases in Ethiopia to date – in isolation.

He noted that for contingency purposes, some 20 doctors and nurses are on standby and some are stationed at the airports to examine suspicious cases of Ebola. However, the minister said that Ebola is not at a state of emergency for Ethiopia currently and banning flights to and from West Africa is unnecessary. The minister also denied reports of two suspicious Ebola cases (one Chinese and the other Nigerian) as they were verified to be malaria patients.

So far, the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) has killed more than 1,000 in West Africa and the spiraling spread of the virus alerted the African Union Commission (AUC) into approving the use of what is dubbed “investigational medical interventions” by the World Health Organization (WHO) in affected countries.

During a press conference held on Wednesday at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, representatives of the AU and WHO told reporters that drugs and experimental vaccines so far have not yet been fully evaluated for safety and efficacy on human beings. However, the large number of people affected by the outbreak in West Africa and the high case fatality rate, promoted to use investigational medical interventions to save lives and curb the epidemic, they said. It was confirmed that ZMAPP – the experimental drug still being tested by institutes in the US – is heading to those affected in West Africa.

Read more at allafrica.com »

Related:
No Ebola Detected in Ethiopia: Spokesman

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NPR: A Not-So-Grand Tour Of Tikur Anbessa Hospital in Addis Ababa (Audio)

Family members sit in the waiting room for the neonatal unit at Black Lion hospital in Addis Ababa. (NPR)

NPR

By AMY WALTERS

August 14, 2014

Listen to the Story on NPR’s Morning Edition

When you sign up for a reporting fellowship to learn about the health of newborns in Ethiopia, you expect things to be a little different from what you’re used to in the U.S. To be perfectly honest, a little worse. But Ethiopia actually surprised me, even before I took off.

I did my research, and it turns out that Ethiopia’s health care system is getting better — significantly better. It’s meeting international goals, winning awards from the United States and, more important, babies are living longer and fewer mothers are dying in childbirth.

This is great news. Maybe Ethiopia would be better than I expected. I got some shots in the arm, popped a few anti-malaria pills and hoped for the best.

It was worse. Now, to be fair, all those things I said before are true. More babies are living through childbirth. Infant mortality has decreased by 39 percent in the past 15 years. But one in every 17 Ethiopian children still dies before turning 1, and one in every 11 children dies before age 5. There’s a ways to go.

Once I arrived, it took me awhile to figure out what was actually happening with Ethiopia’s health care. I was more involved in recovering from the jet lag that woke me up at 1 a.m. every day and avoiding mosquitoes like the plague. I was honestly a little mosquito obsessive. I covered myself and each of my belongings with every repellent known to man: cream, spray, patches, bracelets, small mechanized devices. I needed all the help I could get — the little critters are hopelessly attracted to me.

Read more at NPR »

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President Bush Names Bethlehem Alemu Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon Ambassador

Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu (left), President George W. Bush greets Ethiopian First Lady Roman Tesfaye at the US-Africa Leaders’ Summit in Washington, D.C. on Wed., August 6th, 2014. (Photos: U.S. Embassy)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Monday, August 11th, 2014

New York (TADIAS) — Last week during the inaugural US-Africa Leaders’ Summit in Washington, D.C., former President George W. Bush convened First Spouses from across Africa, where he announced the launch of his global health initiative Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon in Ethiopia and Namibia focusing on preventing cervical cancer, which is the most common type of cancer in females in Ethiopia and the second most common in Namibia.

At the gathering held on Wednesday, August 6th entitled Investing in Our Future, “an event to complement President Obama’s hosting of heads of state and government from the continent,” Bush also introduced the first group of “Ambassadors for the public-private partnership” including Bethlehem Alemu, Founder and Managing Director, soleRebels (Ethiopia); Strive Masiyiwa, Founder and Chairman, Econet Wireless (originally from Zimbabwe); Ambassador Gertrude Ibengwe Mongella, stateswoman (Tanzania); and Isha Sesay, Anchor and Correspondent, CNN International (United Kingdom/Sierra Leone).

“The members of the group will use their personal platforms and networks to encourage social change, public support, and national policies to eliminate cervical cancer,” the George W. Bush Institute said in a press release. “They will also join with Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon partners to spread positive messages that empower and drive women to seek care for themselves and their daughters, including screening, treatment, and vaccinations.”

The Bush Center added: “Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon is a global health partnership founded by the George W. Bush Institute, the U.S. Government through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), Susan G. Komen®, and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). The partnership — which has helped screen over 100,000 women for cervical cancer in Botswana, Tanzania, and Zambia in the last three years — will build on existing healthcare programs in Ethiopia and Namibia to add interventions to prevent, screen for, and treat cervical cancer. The disease continues to be the number-one cancer killer of women in sub-Saharan Africa, exacerbated by its connection with HIV, since HIV-positive women are four-to-five times more likely to contract cervical cancer than their HIV-negative peers.”

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Ethiopia, Kenya Boost Anti-Ebola Measures

(Image: MENAFN.com)

MENAFN – AFP

Kenya and Ethiopia, home to some of Africa’s largest transport hubs, said Thursday they had boosted measures to combat possible Ebola cases arriving in their countries.

Kenya’s National Disaster Operation Centre said in a statement that “port health services are on standby, with enhanced screening at border points to prevent and contain any possible disease threat”.

Meanwhile Ethiopia Airlines said it was taking “extraordinary precautions in connection with the outbreak of the disease”.

Ethiopia’s national carrier is a major airline connecting countries across Africa, as well as flying to the Americas, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

“Stringent and specific surveillance is being carried out regarding all flights from west Africa at Addis Ababa airport,” the airline said in a statement.

Fears that the outbreak of the virus in west Africa could spread have grown in recent days.

Almost 700 people have been killed since the first case was detected in February.

Read more »

Related:
5 things to know about Ebola outbreak in West Africa

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Ethiopia’s Key to Safer Births? Better Roads

Ergedu Mitiku rocks her seven-week-old son in her home in Mosebo, a village in Ethiopia's Amhara Region on June 19. 2014. (Photograph: Ariel Zirulnick/TCSM)

CS Monitor

By Ariel Zirulnick

MOSEBO, AMHARA REGION, ETHIOPIA — From the booming capital of Addis Ababa to Ethiopia’s remotest border regions, excavators are busy scraping earth, making way for roads that will finally connect the far reaches of this largely rural country.

Ethiopia’s full-court press toward a modern road network is certainly a boon to its industry and agriculture. But it may also help Ethiopia shed its notoriety as one of the worst places to be an expectant mother or a newborn. Women name distance and transit as two of the greatest obstacles to accessing health services.

Ethiopia’s maternal and newborn mortality rates are among the world’s highest, though its maternal mortality rates are declining faster than anywhere else on the continent. Many deaths are caused by childbirth complications that could be handled by someone with medical training. Sanitation is another problem. Yet more than 60 percent of women still give birth at home, according to government estimates. (Some international aid groups estimate that number is closer to 80 percent.)

Read more at csmonitor.com »

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UN Says People Living Longer Worldwide: In Ethiopia Life Expectancy Rises To 64 Years

An elderly Mongolian herder drinks fermented mare’s milk in Ulaanbaatar. (Photograph credit: World Bank)

UN News Center

By UN News Service

People everywhere are living longer, the United Nations health agency today reported, mostly because fewer children are dying, certain diseases are in check, and tobacco use is down, but conditions in low-income countries continue to plague life quality there.

According to the UN World Health Organization’s (WHO) World Health Statistics 2014, a girl born in 2012 can expect to live around 73 years and a boy to the age of 68. That is six years longer than the average life span for a child in 1990.

With one year to go until the 2015 target date for achieving the anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), substantial progress has been made on many health-related goals, the report authors wrote.

“The global target of halving the proportion of people without access to improved sources of drinking water was met in 2010, with remarkable progress also having been made in reducing child mortality, improving nutrition, and combating HIV, tuberculosis and malaria,” the report states.

WHO’s statistics show that low-income countries have made the greatest progress, with an average increase in life expectancy by 9 years from 1990 to 2012. The top six countries where life expectancy increased the most were Liberia which saw a 20-year increase (from 42 years in 1990 to 62 years in 2012) followed by Ethiopia (from 45 to 64 years), Maldives (58 to 77 years), Cambodia (54 to 72 years), Timor-Leste (50 to 66 years) and Rwanda (48 to 65 years).

Nevertheless, nearly 18,000 children worldwide died every day in 2012, according to the findings, with large inequities remaining in child mortality between high-income and low-income countries.

“There is still a major rich-poor divide: people in high-income countries continue to have a much better chance of living longer than people in low-income countries,” said Director-General of the UN World Health Organization (WHO) Margaret Chan.

Women live longer than men in general, but in high-income countries the difference is around six years, while in low-income countries, the average falls to three years.

The findings among children are even more glaring. A girl born in 2012 in a high-income country can expect to live to the age of around 82, which is 19 years longer than a girl born in a low-income country. The difference for boys is 16 years.

Geographically, women in Japan live the longest, with an average life expectancy of 87 years, followed by Spain, Switzerland and Singapore at 85 years. The average lifespan of men is highest in Iceland at 81 years.

“In high-income countries, much of the gain in life expectancy is due to success in tackling noncommunicable diseases,” said Ties Boerma, Director of the Department of Health Statistics and Information Systems at WHO.

“Fewer men and women are dying before they get to their 60th birthday from heart disease and stroke. Richer countries have become better at monitoring and managing high blood pressure for example,” he added.

Declining tobacco use is also a key factor in helping people live longer in several countries.

At the other end of the scale, life expectancy for both men and women is still less than 55 years in nine sub-Saharan African countries, including Angola, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lesotho, Mozambique, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.

Read more at UN News Center.

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Dr. Elias Siraj From Temple University Presented Prestigious Service Award

Elias S. Siraj is a Professor of Medicine at Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia. He is also Director of Endocrinology Fellowship Training Program and Diabetes Program. (Photo: Courtesy AACE)

Media AACE

Press Release

Elias S. Siraj, M.D., F.A.C.P., F.A.C.E., received the Outstanding Service Award for Promotion of Endocrine Health of an Underserved Population at the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) 23rd Annual Scientific & Clinical Congress in Las Vegas on May 17, 2014.

The Outstanding Service Award is presented to an individual for outstanding contributions to the endocrine care, health and service to an underserved population in the United States or abroad via leadership, long-term commitment, vision, innovation and impact.

“With my origins in Ethiopia, a country with large number of underserved population, I always thought I am fortunate to be where I am and it is my responsibility to give back in whatever way that I can,” said Dr. Siraj. “I am very humbled by the fact that AACE has recognized my contributions to the underserved populations in my country of origin, Ethiopia, and my adopted country, USA in such a manner.”

Dr. Siraj has made significant contributions towards the education of medical students, residents and endocrine fellows at five of Ethiopia’s medical schools, including a key role in the launch of the country’s first Endocrinology Fellowship Training Program. He has also provided free care for endocrine patients, conducted significant research on diabetes in Ethiopians and provided leadership in organizations fostering collaboration between Ethiopian and US medical institutions or medical professionals.

Dr. Siraj is currently a Professor of Medicine, Director of the Endocrinology Fellowship Program and Director of Diabetes Program at Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia. He is also a Member of ABIM Subspecialty Board for Endocrinology.

More about Dr Elias S. Siraj

Dr. Siraj attended medical school in Ethiopia at Gondar College of Medical Sciences, Addis Ababa University. He was then awarded a scholarship to do residency and research training at the University of Leipzig, Germany. Subsequently, he completed his residency and fellowship training at the Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, Ohio.

Dr. Siraj is board certified in both endocrinology & internal medicine, and is an active member of several professional organizations. Currently he is Board Member of ABIM Endocrinology subsection and a Past President of Philadelphia Endocrine Society. A frequent national and international speaker, he has published multiple articles, abstracts and book chapters on diabetes and endocrine disorders. For his teaching efforts at Temple University, he was given “Excellence in Teaching Award” by the Division of Endocrinology. Dr. Siraj is also very involved in clinical research and trials.

Since the days of his training in Germany in the early 1990s, Dr. Siraj has been engaged in helping his native country Ethiopia in patient care, medical education and research. In research, he has made significant contribution to our understanding of the characteristics of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes in Ethiopia and published several papers and abstracts. Regarding patient care, he has provided free medical care to patients with diabetes and other endocrine conditions at various hospitals.

Perhaps the most important contribution of Dr. Siraj to the health care system in Ethiopia is in medical education. Over the years, Dr. Siraj has significantly contributed towards the education of medical students, residents and endocrine fellows at five of the country’s medical schools. To be highlighted is the key role Dr. Siraj played in the launching of the first ever Endocrinology Fellowship Training Program in Ethiopia, the second most populous country in Africa. He was also instrumental in the creation of partnership between Temple University and Addis Ababa University.

Dr. Siraj also serves as Vice President of People to People Inc. (P2P), which is a nonprofit organization established in the US, by physicians of Ethiopian origin to support the Ethiopian Health Care system. Within P2P, Dr. Siraj has been instrumental in the conception, launching and ongoing leadership of the Annual Global Ethiopian Diaspora Conference on Health Care and Medical Education which is conducted annually in Washington, DC since 2009. He has also facilitated the creation of partnerships between Ethiopian medical schools/hospitals & partner institutions in the US.

Dr. Siraj is also an ardent patient educator and advocate for underserved people both here in the US and in Ethiopia. He has led and participated in various initiatives targeted at African Americans and Ethiopian immigrant population in the US through community outreaches, publications as well as frequent radio & TV interviews.

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Ethiopia Most Successful in Africa at Cutting Maternal Deaths – NGO

In a 2008 photo released by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), a woman carries her baby at a feeding centre in southern Ethiopia. (Photograph Credit: IFRC)

Thomson Reuters Foundation

By Katy Migiro

Tue, 6 May 2014

NAIROBI – Pregnancy-related deaths in Ethiopia have fallen by nearly two-thirds, making it the African country that has most successfully lowered its maternal mortality rate thanks to its lifesaving investment in female health workers and girls’ education, Save the Children said on Tuesday.

Ethiopia’s maternal deaths have fallen from one in 24 women dying due to pregnancy in 2000 to one in 67 today.

“For a country beset by natural disasters such as droughts and food shortages, this shows that concerted efforts in tough places work,” Save the Children wrote in its annual report State of the World’s Mothers.

Out of 178 countries included in the report, Save the Children ranks Finland as the best place to be a mother or child and Somalia as the worst.

Ethiopia came in 149th, faring poorly in indicators such as an average annual income of only $380 per person and only 6.6 years of expected formal schooling.

Read more.

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Using Ethiopia’s Healthcare Gaps to Do Good and Make a Profit

Patients waiting inside a hospital in Addis Ababa on the weekend. The capital has only four stationary MRI scanners, providing services to 30 government- and private-run hospitals. (Photograph Credit: IPS News)

IPS

By James Jeffrey

ADDIS ABABA — (IPS) – For a while now, Magnetic Resonance Imaging or MRI scanners have typically been a luxury that both government and private hospitals in Ethiopia have struggled to afford to purchase for in-house use.

Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital with an ever-growing population of around 3.8 million, currently has only four stationary MRI scanners that provide services to 30 government and private hospitals, according to Zelalem Molla, a surgeon based in Addis Ababa.

Outside of the capital, only two MRI scanners exist. But the six scanners — in this Horn of Africa nation of some 92 million people — are old fashioned and far behind the technological curve in the West.

“It would be wrong to claim that the mobile MRI scanner would save lives,” says Zelalem, whose lunchtime chat with American entrepreneur Peter Burns III about the paucity of scanners sparked a business idea.

“[In a developing economy] a government’s focus on financial market stability and security issues can result in healthcare issues remaining on the side-lines.” — Alayar Kangarlu, MRI research centre, Columbia University
But, Zelalem notes, more MRI scanners — which use strong magnetic fields and radio waves to generate images of the inside of the body that can be analysed on computers — would crucially allow more doctors to diagnose illnesses far earlier when they are operable and potentially curable.

“Often it is not possible for doctors to diagnose illnesses such as tumours until they physically appear at a stage when the chances of saving a patient are slim — or it is too late,” Zelalem tells IPS.

However, actual figures about the number of people directly affected here by the lack of MRI scanners do not exist.

In the past, some Ethiopians have needed to travel to other African countries such as Kenya and South Africa, or to Europe to have scans. This even included Haile Gebrselassie, Ethiopia’s track runner, who used to go to Munich, Germany for scans to help diagnose running injuries.

Read more.

Related:
CEO Weekend: Ethiopia’s Hello Doctors Raises Funding From Africa Group

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CEO Weekend: Ethiopia’s Hello Doctors Raises Funding From Africa Group

(Photo: techmoran.com)

TechMoran

By Sam Wakoba

Telemed Medical Services (Telemed), an Ethiopian engineering consultancy specializing in health system design and implementation within the Ethiopian healthcare sector has today raised funding from The Africa Group (TAG), a US-based boutique advisor and venture capital investor.

TAG will own a 25% stake in Telemed, which was founded in 2012 to reinforce limited health resources in Ethiopia, a country where the doctor-to-patient ratio is ~1:30,000 and 80% of the population lives over 5 kilometers from the nearest health center.

In a statement, Dr. Yohans Wodaje, Founder of Telemed said, “Telemed provides a critical service to the Ethiopian public and it is important to make all necessary investments to ensure the scale-up of this transformative endeavor. Venture capital is a crucial source of financing for start-up business like ours, having the potential of catapulting them to reach greater markets; our partnership with TAG is the perfect match, enabling us access to the appropriate amount of capital with the right kind of technical support.”

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Tadias Interview: Dr. Enawgaw Mehari on Pan-African Health Conference

Dr. Enawgaw Mehari, Founder and President of People to People - P2P. (Courtesy photograph)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Monday, February 24th, 2014

New York (TADIAS) — Ethiopian-born Neurologist Enawgaw Mehari, Founder and President of People to People (P2P), keeps a busy schedule at his job as a consultant at St. Claire Regional Medical Center and Neurology Course Director for University of Kentucky, but he always finds time to form global partnerships on healthcare related projects in Ethiopia. P2P, an Ethiopian doctors association that he founded in 1999, has a worldwide membership of over 55,000 as well as close ties with medical institutions in Ethiopia and the United States. Recently the California-based non-profit organization, US Doctors for Africa (USDFA), announced that it has partnered with P2P as its “Strategic Co-host” of the upcoming Pan-African Medical Doctors and Healthcare Conference to be held in Addis Ababa from May 21st through 23rd, 2014.

“It is so natural these two organizations have agreed to come together to host such a high level conference,” Dr. Enawgaw said in a recent interview with Tadias Magazine. Dr. Enawgaw noted that the gathering will highlight what he calls a “Triangular Partnership,” a term used by People to People — which also runs a free clinic in Kentucky for the working poor — to describe the relationship of three global groups: Diaspora, developing countries and Western institutions. “For so long the donor communities have given huge amount of money to Africa but have not invested sufficiently in capacity building,” he added. “People to People believes in a pragmatic vision that Triangular Partnership is the new paradigm.”

Dr. Enawgaw pointed out that Ethio American Medical Group (EDAG) and Global Ethiopian Medical Enterprise, both members of the Ethiopian Diaspora, have merged together to build a state of the art hospital in Addis Ababa. “The goal is to mitigate the migration of Ethiopians to other countries for their high caliber healthcare,” he said. “The group believes we are where we are and we have what we have and it is therefore natural to give back to the people who made our dreams a reality.”

Dr. Enawgaw emphasized that there are many distinguished Ethiopians and friends of Ethiopians who are making a difference in many ways “such as Dr. Girma Tefera from University of Wisconsin coordinating the emergency medicine program, Dr. Senait Fisseha from Michigan University helping St. Paul University with its post graduate training, Dr. Elias Siraj from Temple University supporting the Endocrinology program, Dr. Dawd Siraj and Dr. Makeda Semret from McGill University in Canada supporting the infectious disease program at Black Lion hospital, Dr. Kassa Darge supporting the radiology program at Black Lion, Dr. Zelalem Temesgen from Mayo Clinic developing HIV/AIDS online education program for Ethiopia, and Dr. Anteneh Habte supporting the palliative and hospice educational effort to be added to medical school curriculums. In addition, Dr. Fikre Girma from McMaster University in Canada has played a significant role in introducing CME for emergency medicine in Ethiopia. The Hakim Workneh and Melaku Beyan society has been playing important roles in medical education and the health care system in Ethiopia. The list is huge and I hope I am not in trouble for forgetting important names.”

The upcoming conference at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa headquarters in Addis Ababa, Dr. Enawgaw said, is open to medical students, medical doctors, health care specialists, policy makers and any one interested both at home and abroad. He said some of the topics at the conference will include “Technology, education, infrastructure, social media, medical ethics, mental health, brain drain, brain circulation, brain gain, women’s health, burden of diseases, and non-infectious emerging chronic diseases such as diabetes mellitus, heart attack and stroke.”

You can learn more about the conference at panafricanhealthconference.org.

Related:
Ted Alemayehu Prepares for Pan-African Healthcare Conference in Ethiopia

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Yared Tekabe’s Research Shows Promising Results in Treatment of Diabetes

Dr. Yared Tekabe in his office at Columbia University's William Black building in New York. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

New York (TADIAS) — Dr. Yared Tekabe, a research scientist at Columbia University, has been working on groundbreaking non-invasive detection of heart diseases such as atherosclerosis — the building up of plaque in your arteries — which can lead to heart attack or stroke. After developing a tracer that could show the presence of a receptor called RAGE in areas where tissues were inflamed, Tekabe and his colleagues have now moved from detection and diagnostics to applying anti-RAGE antibodies for therapeutic purposes.

“Until now we were focusing on early diagnosis of heart diseases using our anti-RAGE antibody to detect diseases such as atherosclerosis and cardiomyopathy — a condition where muscle tissue of the heart becomes enlarged or rigid leading to irregular heartbeat or heart failure,” says Tekabe in a recent interview with Tadias. “At the time we didn’t realize the therapeutic potential for the antibody.”

Now anti-RAGE antibodies have become a game-changer as RAGE has been implicated in up to 12 diseases including diabetes, cancer, metabolic disorders and chronic inflammation.

Tekabe initially sent anti-RAGE antibody to his former advisor at Northeastern University who conducts research on human cancer cells and asked him to study the effect of the antibody on human tissue culture. His advisor had used three cell lines including those for human prostate cancer, sensitive ovarian cancer, and multi-drug resistant ovarian cancer.

“One of the problems in cancer treatment is that there is drug resistance, and we wanted to use the antibody on these cells. We found that 70% of the multi-drug resistant ovarian cancer cells died!” Yared exclaims. “So the antibody has brought really good results. If you ask what is the next step, I would say that we would like to study its therapeutic possibility on animal models.”

Another primary study conducted by Tekabe using anti-RAGE antibody focuses on complications of late stage diabetes such as ischemia. “In individuals that have diabetes they often undergo hand and leg amputations due to poor blood circulation,” Tekabe explains. “So what I did was to make mice have high blood glucose and induce diabetes and ligated or bound their femoral artery to restrict circulation.” The mice were then treated with anti-RAGE antibody and compared to a control group that didn’t receive the antibody treatment. Tekabe and his colleagues were surprised to find that the treated mice showed new blood vessels were forming in their hindlimb. In effect the ischemia caused by late stage diabetes was being reversed.

“We looked to see if this antibody treatment also reversed the high blood glucose level or affected body weight of the diabetic mice, but we didn’t find any significant changes in these two factors,” Tekabe adds. However, the formation of new blood vessels is a significant finding that points to the possible therapeutic use of the antibody for human diabetic patients, a promising therapy for those who may otherwise have to undergo amputations.

Tekabe’s research was recently published in the European Journal of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging. “Moving forward we hope to continue the research and advance to human diabetic treatment, after humanizing the antibody first” he says. “We are also looking at possible therapeutic uses of the antibody for other conditions including kidney failure and heart failure, which are also often diagnosed in late stage diabetic patients.”

Tekabe and his colleagues are currently securing additional funds to get a second patent for this research and focus on using the antibody for theranostics — both diagnostic and therapeutic purposes.

Related:
Yared Tekabe Uses Molecular Imaging for Early Detection of Heart Disease
Yared Tekabe’s Groundbreaking Research in Heart Disease

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How Community Health Workers Dramatically Improve Healthcare

Hani Wondwesen is waiting with two children at a clinic in Addis Ababa where they will have pediatric appointments (Ankita Rao/Kaiser Health News)

The Atlantic

Hermon Girma is stirring bean stew over a wood-fed stove when she hears someone at the gate. She sends her 3-year-old son to slide open the piece of corrugated metal that separates her home and others from the cobblestone street in Kirkos, a neighborhood in Ethiopia’s burgeoning capital city, Addis Ababa.

Tigist Seyoum, a sturdy 35-year-old woman with a large black purse and cornrowed braids, leans down to kiss the boy’s cheek as she enters. The community health worker and the boy’s mother sit on a sofa in the Girmas’ home—two tidy, small rooms crammed with furniture. They chat about neighborhood gossip and the family’s health, including checking on birth control prescriptions.

Community health workers like Seyoum have helped Ethiopia reduce child mortality by two-thirds since 1990 and death from malaria, a common disease, by 55 percent. Since their deployment, contraception use among women—from longer-lasting injections to daily birth control pills—has doubled from 15 to almost 30 percent in six years.

Read more at The Atlantic.

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Betelhem Seleshi’s Mobile Ultrasound Brings Home the News to Expecting Parents

Betelhem Seleshi (right), owner of the Maryland-based Baby Joy 3D/4D Mobile Ultrasound, finds out the sex of Deisy Izquierdo’s fetus during a baby shower in Silver Spring on Sunday, Jan 26th, 2014. (Gazette)

The Gazette

By Aline Barros Staff Writer

Baby Joy 3-D/4-D Mobile Ultrasound promises expecting mothers and fathers a personal and intimate experience — finding out their in utero baby’s sex — away from a doctor’s office.

Baby Joy 3D/4D Ultrasound, a Silver Spring business, was an idea that grew from a mother of two who believes seeing a baby in the womb is a special bonding moment.

“I see pregnant women every day. … Some of them want to show the pictures to their husbands that couldn’t make it to the doctor’s office … or they want to show the pictures to the grandparents who were watching the kids at home,” Betelhem Seleshi said.

And that’s when Seleshi thought: Why not bring the experience to people’s homes?

Read more at The Gazette.

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Dr. Catherine Hamlin: 90 Year Old Surgeon Keeps a Steady Hand in Ethiopia

Dr. Catherine Hamlin, who celebrated her 90th birthday last week, has lived in Ethiopia for over 52 years. She tells SBS Radio that she will continue her work with childbirth injury patients. (Fistula Hospital)

World News Australia Radio

By Naomi Selveratnam

Australian surgeon Catherine Hamlin has just celebrated her 90th birthday, and for most people, this would be a good enough reason to slow down.

But Dr Hamlin says she will continue her work with women in Ethiopia with the potentially life-threatening medical condition, obstetric fistula.

When Catherine Hamlin celebrated her 90th birthday, she didn’t want gifts or a party.

Instead, she says she wished for her hands to remain steady enough to continue to operate on some of the thousands of women who come to the hospital she and her late husband, Reg, established in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

Click here to read more and hear audio of the interview.

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Family Planning Summit Set for Ethiopia

UN, USAID say millions of women have unmet family planning needs. (Photo: USAID)

VOA News

By Joe DeCapua

About 4,000 people are expected to attend this year’s International Conference on Family Planning. The three day meeting opens November 12 in Addis Ababa. The theme is Full Access, Full Choice.

Listen to De Capua report on family planning conference

Organizers described the conference as “a movement and platform” in the family planning agenda. They say Ethiopia was chosen to host this year’s meeting because of its strong commitment to family planning and its access to modern contraceptive methods.

A new resource will be unveiled at the conference called Programming Strategies for Postpartum Family Planning. It’s a joint effort by the World Health Organization, USAID, the U.N. Population Fund and ministries of health from many countries, among others. It’s called a “roadmap” for designing effective postpartum family planning programs at both the local and national levels.

“This resource is going to change how family planning is provided to women around the time of birth in the postpartum,” said Anne Pfitzer, family planning team leader for the USAID’s Maternal Child Health Integrated Program or MCHIP.

She said that during postpartum – the time after childbirth — women have distinct and unmet family planning needs.

“We have seen that postpartum family planning is essential, is needed. It saves lives. We think that this resource document is going to help many countries do more to reach women, who right now may be confused about family planning options right around the time of birth.”

In fact, she said, many women may be unaware of the risk of becoming pregnant again so soon after giving birth.

“In many countries, too many closely spaced births, which are associated with negative outcomes for both mothers and babies in terms of their health. We know, I think intuitively that mothers don’t want to have a baby every year. Mortality curves show much better outcomes between three to five years between pregnancies.”

Organizers said data for 27 developing countries show that “95 percent of postpartum women want to avoid another pregnancy” in the two years following birth. They added that “65 percent have an unmet need for contraception.”

“The problem I think is that many women themselves are confused about when they might get pregnant after a pregnancy. They have misconception about methods of family planning – how they interact with breastfeeding, for example. Or sometimes they think that because it took them three years to get pregnant last time it will be the same this time around. And in fact six months later they’re pregnant again,” Pfitzer said.

Organizers estimate that “287,000 women die every year from problems caused by childbirth – and that one in four women could be saved if they had global access to contraception.” What’s more, they say 200 million couples in the developing world are “unable to control the number and spacing” of the birth of their children.

In the United States, family planning is often a political issue – with debates over privacy, abortion and a woman’s right to choose.

Pfitzer said, “It’s unfortunate that in the U.S. family planning has become controversial. It shouldn’t happen in this day and age. Couples should have the chance to plan the number and timing of their children and have all the options available to them to do so.”

Ethiopian fashion model Liya Kebede is helping to launch Programming Strategies for Postpartum Family Planning. She has a foundation promoting maternal health.

This year’s International Conference on Family Planning is co-hosted by Ethiopia’s Ministry of Health and the Bill and Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

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Ethiopian Girl Gets An 8 lb. Neck Tumor Removed At Local Hospital (NY PIX11)

13-year-old Aster Degaro before and after her surgery. (Photo: WPIX-TV)

New York’s PIX11

New York – Last week, Aster Degaro, a 13-year-old from Ethiopia had a life changing surgery to remove an 8 lb. tumor on her neck she’s had since birth.

With help from the Little Baby Face Foundation, this brave girl was able to come to the states from Ethiopia and have this operation at Cohen Children’s Medical Center.

Doctors Milton Waner and Thomas Romo worked on Aster for eight hours and completed the procedure without any complications.

Aster and her father plan to stay in New York City for the next three months during recovery.


Aster will require multiple surgeries to completely remove the cyst from her face. (PIX11)

Read more and see photos at PIX11.com.

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UNICEF: Ethiopia Reduces Child Mortality Rates By Half (Video)

Ethiopia has reduced child mortality rates by 50%, according to a new millennium development goal report by UNICEF: "2013 Progress Report on Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed." (Photo: ICMHD)

UNICEF Television

September 13th, 2013

Gambella, Ethiopia – For a country that once made headlines for famine, poverty and war, Ethiopia is gaining a reputation as a development leader on the African continent. In just over 10 years, the country has slashed child mortality rates by half, rising in global rank from 146 in 2000 to 68 in 2012. More money is being spent on health care, poverty levels and fertility rates are down, and twice as many children are in school.

Read more at Unicef Org.

Also see: The 2013 Progress Report on Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed (PDF)

Watch: Health care extension workers in Ethiopia help address child mortality (UNICEF)


Related:
Ethiopia achieves development target on reducing child mortality (The Guardian)

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Bogaletch Gebre: Talking Female Circumcision Out of Existence

Bogaletch Gebre, winner of the 2013 King Baudouin Prize, is the founder of KMG, Kembatti Mentti Gezzima-Toppe, a Kembatta women’s self-help organization based in southern Ethiopia. (Photo: YouTube)

The New York Times

By TINA ROSENBERG

Like every other girl of her era in her part of southern Ethiopia — and most girls in the country — Bogaletch Gebre was circumcised. In some regions girls are circumcised as infants, but in her zone it happened at puberty. It was around 1967, and she was about 12. A man held her from behind, blindfolded her and stuffed a rag in her mouth, and with his legs held her legs open so she could not move. A female circumciser took a razor blade and sliced off Gebre’s genitals.

Gebre nearly bled to death. She stayed at home for about two months, and after she healed, she was presented to her village, ready for marriage.

Unicef estimates (pdf) that between 70 million and 140 million girls and women globally are circumcised. The practice is widespread throughout Africa, and in some countries of Asia and the Middle East. In Ethiopia it is done by Muslims, Christians and Jews. (Gebre’s region of Kembata-Tembaro is a largely Protestant area of some 700,000 people in Ethiopia’s south.) No major religion endorses circumcision. Communities that practice it have in common that they are traditional societies where female sexuality is viewed mainly as a potential threat to family honor — in Kembata-Tembaro, the practice is called “cutting off the dirt.” To keep girls from promiscuity and ruin, the clitoris and often the labia are cut off to deaden sexual sensation.

Read more at The New York Times.

Related:
Women’s Rights Activists Bogaletch Gebre wins King Baudouin Prize (BBC News)
Ethiopian Activist Recognized for Fight Against Female Genital Mutilation (VOA)

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DC Mayor’s Office on African Affairs Hosts Health Education Festival – June 1st

Washington, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray arrives at the 2nd annual DC African Festival. (Photo courtesy the Mayor's Office on African Affairs)

Tadias Magazine
Events News

Published: Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

Washington, D.C. (TADIAS) — The DC Mayor’s Office on African Affairs is hosting a networking and informational gathering this weekend targeting the District’s African residents. Organizers say the festival, entitled The DC African Wellness Fête, is designed to motivate positive health behavior within the community and increase awareness of local health services and resources.

The Health Education Festival, which takes place on Saturday, June 1st at Brightwood Education Campus, is spearheaded by TEAM Africa, the coordinating committee made up of DC government representatives, health professionals, community-based organizations and advocates.

Winta Teferi, a program analyst at the Mayor’s Office on African Affairs, told Tadias that they have been conducting “a door-to-door campaign to invite members of the Ethiopian, Nigerian and other communities to the event.”

The 3-month initiative includes an outreach and education program with workshops on general health literacy and nutrition that supports Mayor Gray’s city-wide plan for “facilitating greater access to quality health care, by increasing education about healthy living habits and by reducing HIV/AIDS rates in the District.”

The June 1st festival will “showcase a diverse array of interactive activities,” Winta said, that promote culture-based lifestyle changes as well as a number of government and community-based exhibitors who will help facilitate access to health information, testing and services.

“Having safe and healthy communities to live in is a basic and fundamental right to which all residents are entitled,” Mayor Gray said in a statement. “I look forward to working together as one city to help encourage healthy behaviors and improve health, education, wellness and outreach in critical areas that affect every District resident.”

Prior research has shown that stigma, language, and cultural incompatibility are key contributors to health disparities and barriers to access for the District’s African immigrant communities.

If You Go:
Saturday, June 1, 2013 | 12pm – 4pm
Brightwood Education Campus | 1300 Nicholson St. NW
Learn more at www.oaa.dc.gov.

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Atlanta Fundraiser Benefitting Clinic at a Time

Mulusew Yayehyirad wrote the book "You Can Make Injera" to support her organization 'Clinic at a Time.'

Tadias Magazine
Events News

Published: Wednesday, May 5th, 2013

Atlanta (TADIAS) — The U.S. based non-profit organization Clinic at a Time that works with rural public hospitals in Ethiopia to expand their existing facility and services, announced that it will hold a fundraiser this weekend at Lona Gallery in downtown Lawrenceville, Georgia.

The founder, Mulusew Yayehyirad, a nurse who lives in Madison, Wisconsin, said the event is scheduled for Saturday, May 18th; it’s titled “A Night of Hope” and will raise funds for a construction of four room maternal care recovery unit inside Bichena Clinic in the Gojam region.

The dinner is being hosted by Kindred and Meredith Howard, adoptive parents of twin brothers from northwestern Ethiopia, who lost their mother due to birth complications and lack of medical attention.

“What if Marta [the twins' late mother] had access to maternity care?” the couple said in a statement. “What if there was a clinic nearby that Marta could have gone to while in labor instead of giving birth in her mud hut alone, while her husband was walking for hours to find the closest midwife to help her?”

“Our goal is to reduce these problems by assisting to improve what’s already working,” Mulu said.

According to the UN Population Fund 1 in 14 Ethiopian women face the risk of death during pregnancy and childbirth due to largely preventable health injuries. “To be honest, for me the clinics have not changed much since I was a child,” added Mulu who grew up in the region. “It’s mostly as I remember it.”

“People travel for days to get to the clinic, but they have to sit outside in the sun once they get there because that’s the waiting area,” Mulu said. “If we can build a patient waiting space, that’s one progress. In addition if we include laboratory equipment, delivery beds, etc, all contribute to the betterment of the present resource.”

Besides her book You Can Make Injera, which the nurse authored to generate revenue for Clinic at a Time, Mulu pointed out that the event will also feature Ethiopian cuisine catered by Piassa Restaurant and American food by Mimi Maumus.

If You Go:
A Night Of Hope: Fundraiser Benefitting Clinic at a Time, Inc.
Hosted By: Kindred & Meredith Howard
Saturday, May 18, 2013 from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM (EDT)
Lawrenceville, GA
Click here to buy tickets.
Learn more at www.clinicatatime.org.

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Vipassana Meditation in Ethiopia

The following article is a reader submission from Ethiopia. The author, Yacob Gabremedhin, pictured above, is a 37-year-old certified yoga teacher as well as co-owner of a civil engineering consulting company in Addis Ababa. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
Reader Submission

By Yacob Gabremedhin

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – Imagine sitting quietly at a retreat center in Debre Zeit for 10 days, meditating for more than 11 hours a day. That’s where I had my first real experience in meditation.

I started out in January 2009, a year after the first Vipassana meditation course had been offered. And there I was sitting cross-legged, eyes closed, in complete silence with 30 other participants receiving instructions both in Amharic and English. The first course in Ethiopia was organized in 2008 by former students who took similar lessons abroad.

Having been born and raised in Addis, where I attended Cathedral and Saint Joseph schools, and later part of the Technology Faculty at Addis Ababa University, I read and dabbled a bit in such things, this was not my first introduction to meditation. But it would prove later to be the most meaningful and lasting.

Ten days of silent meditation from 4 AM to 9 PM — no reading, no talking, no cell phones, internet or music. This is Vipassana meditation. It means ‘seeing things as they really are.’ Vipassana is one of India’s most ancient meditation techniques. It is the process of self-purification by self-observation. One begins by observing the natural breath to concentrate the mind. With a sharpened awareness the person then proceeds to notice the changing nature of body and mind, and experiences the universal truths of impermanence, suffering and egolessness. For this reason, it can be practiced freely by everyone, at any time, in any place, without conflict due to race, community or religion, and it will prove equally beneficial to the individual and those around them.

In the last 45 years alone business and national leaders across the globe including the President of India have taken Vipassana training. The Roman Catholic Church has allowed more than 6000 priests and nuns to take the course. There are coachings especially tailored for executives as well. Not to mention that federal governments of different countries, such as India, Israel and the US have come to understand the effectiveness of the technique and started teaching it in prisons as well. An introduction to Vipassana as rehabilitation was filmed in 2007 inside a maximum-security prison called the Donaldson Correctional Facility in Alabama. The documentary, The Dhamma Brothers, was featured on Oprah the same year and was awarded ‘Best Documentary’ prize at the “Wood Hole Film Festival” in Massachusetts.

Courses are run solely on a donation basis. There are no charges for the classes, food or accommodation. All expenses are met by contributions from those who, having completed a lesson and experienced the benefits of Vipassana, wish to give others the same opportunity.

All trainings given around the world are completely identical in format, timetable, activity and organization. The only difference is in the cuisine as each country serves mainly local dishes. All selections, however, must be vegetarian. In Ethiopia, we prepare yetsome megib (fasting food); injera or bread with shiro and misir wot, salads and cooked veggies.

The initial Vipassana mediation course in Ethiopia was led by former students who had studied with S.N. Goenka, who started teaching in 1969 after learning the tradition from Sayagyi U Ba Khin of Burma. In Debre Zeit approximately 30 students enrolled in the first retreat held from January 30th to February 11th, 2008.

To date, eleven such gatherings have been held in the country. Though those who come to attend are mainly Ethiopians residing in Addis and other large towns, students have also come from other nations in Africa, Europe, Asia the US, Canada and more. A number of Ethiopians residing in America have also taken classes here.

Having had an unforgettable experience at the end of my first session four years ago, I still continue to practice regularly whenever time and other resources allow, including a couple of workouts in Northern California and Georgia where I traveled to visit family and friends.

Today, as meditation continues to grow in Ethiopia, so are efforts to strengthen the establishment of a Vipassana Trust. Vipassana is not for adults only. There are also trainings designed for children. The program offers young people, between the ages of 8 and 16 years, an introduction to Anapana meditation, which is a practice of the observation of natural breath to focus the mind.

Those seeking to get in touch can contact us at: info@et.dhamma.org.

For more information about Vipassana Meditation courses in Ethiopia and rest of the world, readers can visit the website: www.dhamma.org.

Below is a slideshow of images from Debre Zeit:


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Geographic Technology Helps Put Ethiopia on Map of Global Health Success

DKT Ethiopia, which opened in 1990, is the largest distributor of contraceptives, condoms and other health products throughout Ethiopia. (Images courtesy DKT/E)

The Huffington Post

By David J. Olson

In just six years, DKT Ethiopia has transformed its system for tracking contraceptive sales from pins and pencils to computers and satellites and, in the process, helped create a family planning and HIV prevention success story in the Horn of Africa.

DKT Ethiopia is an affiliate of DKT International, a non-profit organization that seeks to provide couples with affordable and safe options for family planning and HIV prevention in 19 low- and middle-income countries. In Ethiopia, DKT uses social marketing to distribute three brands of condoms (and eight variants), three oral contraceptive pills, two IUDS, two injectables, one brand of emergency contraception and several other health products.

It was in 2007 that DKT Ethiopia started using GIS (Geographic Information System), a tool to display and analyze sales, finance and inventory information geographically and, particularly, to plot every one of its 30,000+ direct and indirect sales outlets. This has made an enormous difference in DKT’s ability to know how its contraceptive sales are going in every corner of Ethiopia.

Click here to read more at The Huffington Post.

Related:
Ethiopia, Rwanda, Uganda, Norway Co-host Education & Technology Health Summit (TADIAS)

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The State of Women in Ethiopia’s Amhara Region

(Photo: David Snyder/ICRW)

The Word on Women – A second chance for Ethiopia’s child brides (Trust.org)

By Jeff Edmeades

Washington, DC – Once again, I have just returned to my home base in Washington, DC after spending several weeks in Ethiopia’s deeply poor, yet breathtaking, Amhara region. And once again – as is always the case – I was inspired by the sheer enthusiasm and thirst for opportunity among an often forgotten group: child brides.

Amhara has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world, with around three quarters of women aged 20 to 24 marrying before their 18th birthday. Over the past three years, I’ve been involved in an innovative project run by the aid agency CARE that is aiming to give these girls and young women who were married too young – some in their very early teenage years – a second lease on life. Their experiences of marriage are often quite similar, typically involving arranged unions either preceded or accompanied by school dropout.

The lessons learned from these often heartbreaking stories couldn’t be more relevant this week as former Prime Minister Gordon Brown meets with G8 Finance Ministers at the World Bank in Washington in his capacity as UN Special Envoy for Global Education.

In my conversations with these young wives, most have told me that they are hungry to return to school. For child brides in Ethiopia and worldwide, school often represents much more than just a chance to learn. It opens the opportunity both to dream big and to achieve small milestones, like simply having friends their own age with whom to talk and laugh.

The past two decades have seen a remarkable improvement in youth access to education throughout the world. More children and young adults are enrolled in school than perhaps at any point in human history. Yet despite these improvements, adolescent girls – especially those who are poor, living in a rural area, or belonging to a minority ethnic group – continue to miss out on the opportunity to go to school.

The most recent data suggest that 39 million girls between 11 and 15 years old are out of school worldwide, with some estimates suggesting that the total for all adolescents (ages 11-19) is as high as 60 million. These girls more likely to suffer from poorer health, experience greater poverty and be exposed to higher levels of domestic violence. Meanwhile, the social stability, economic growth, and basic well-being of uneducated girls’ families, communities and societies are more likely to deteriorate.

The evidence suggests that early marriage is certainly linked to school drop outs. However, it also shows that the main driver is much broader and much more difficult to address: entrenched, pervasive social norms that govern expectations about what girls can and will do with their lives – fueling both early marriage and school dropout. This isn’t to say that encouraging an emphasis on greater education for girls will not influence very early marriage, but rather, any attempt to address either educational outcomes or child marriage must begin by directly challenging social norms around gender.

This is what the International Center for Research on Women is doing in partnership with CARE and other local organizations in Ethiopia, and it is working. We’ve found that providing married adolescent girls with the skills – through trainings and education – to effectively challenge social norms from within their own communities has proven to be a powerful tool of transformation for girls and their communities. This is particularly the case when paired with effective community engagement and support.

Yes, there are many reasons why girls do not stay in school long enough to learn the critical skills they need in a world that increasingly demands formal educational qualifications. But the main reason is simply because they are girls.

We can begin changing this on a much larger scale by working with whole communities and involving parents, religious or traditional leaders, and other influential community members, as these individuals have the greatest direct influence on girls’ aspirations and behavior. Programs aimed at improving the lives of adolescent girls should be integrated, focusing on building girls’ health, their access to social support and economic opportunities, and above all should address expectations about the roles of girls and women in society. Economic interventions must develop realistic options for girls that boost their chances at staying in school and delaying marriage.

Finally, let’s not forget to work with girls who are already married, like those I visited in Ethiopia’s Amhara region; they have largely fallen off the radar of many policymakers and lie almost completely outside of any government support systems. Meanwhile, if current trends hold, an estimated 142 million adolescent girls will marry over the next decade. Let’s work to provide these girls with a chance to return to school and develop the skills and support networks that they deserve – and have the right to experience.

Jeff Edmeades is a Child Marriage Researcher for the International Center for Research on Women in Washington, DC.

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Diaspora Doctors to Start Specialized Hospital | Ethiopia’s Economy Benefiting From Emigrants Returning Home

(Photo credit: Ethio-American Doctors Group)

VOA News

BY Marthe Van Der Wolf

ADDIS ABABA — A group of 150 Ethiopian doctors living abroad are constructing a hospital in their home country that will offer state-of-the-art medical treatment. This new hospital is designed to reduce the number of Ethiopians seeking medical facilities abroad.

The Ethio-American Doctors Group, an association of more than150 Ethiopian doctors in the diaspora, is realizing its dream: establishing an up-to-date hospital in their homeland that includes a medical school and a medical research center.

Dr. Yonas Legessa Cherinet of the Doctors Group said the new hospital will feature 27 medical specialties that currently are not offered in Ethiopia.

“There are a varieties of fields where service is very limited here. I could mention vascular surgery, urology, pulmonology, neuro-surgery and reproductive endocrinology, which is not available. So many doctors are coming in with so many specialities, there will be a core group of these specialists who will be coming here to lead some departments, to work here,” said Yonas.

The Doctors Group hopes that fewer Ethiopians will go abroad for medical help if they can be treated inside the country.

Currently, many Ethiopians that can afford better treatment go to Asia, the Middle East and South Africa. The Bangkok Hospital in Thailand treated more than 6,000 Ethiopians in 2011 alone. A lot of money is involved, as the average treatment costs about $20,000.

Dr. Zelelam Abebe, who works in a private clinic in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, said there is a large need for first-class medical services in the country.

“I had to refer several people to hospitals abroad for different cardiac surgeries, brain surgery and advanced cancer cases,” he said.

Dr. Yonas said that providing for Ethiopians who might otherwise go abroad means the hospital will have to be run differently – and better – compared to most other facilities in the country.

“The reasons they mention [for going abroad] vary from the quality of care to the way they are treated in respect. So we want to bring a new culture here of medical care, which will be patient-centered,” said Yonas.

But with an average yearly income of $1,200, most Ethiopians will not be able to afford the treatments offered at the new facility. Yonas said money will be raised for those in financial need.

”We also have what we call the EDG fund, which will be taking 10 percent of our profit for people who cannot afford quality service,” he said.

Tariku Assefa is a general practicing doctor who works at the Black Lion Hospital, the largest hospital in Ethiopia, which also includes a medical school. He welcomes the idea of the new hospital, but hopes the new research facility will focus on diseases prevalent in Ethiopia.

“We use most of the research that were done in the western countries. We take example from America or other western countries because those research is done there. In most of the disease entity we don’t have our own figures, we use the figures of other people, which is somehow biased because the one which is in the West may not work for us,” said Tariku.

The hospital is scheduled to open its doors by 2016 and employ 300 to 400 people, of whom 50 will be physicians. Some doctors from the diaspora will return to Ethiopia, while others will commit several weeks per year to an exchange of knowledge with the hospital.

Related:
Ethiopia’s Economy Benefits from Returning Diaspora (Public Radio International)


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World Bank Selects Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya In New Health Study

Image credit: RDI

Ventures Africa Magazine

Updated: February 18th, 2013

VENTURES AFRICA – Global development agency World Bank is examining Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya and 19 other countries around the globe for a study on Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

According to the Bank, the 22 countries were selected as samples that have significantly expanded access to health care within the last decade, with the aim of providing fiscal solutions to healthcare challenges and helping countries make more informed health policies.

The other countries are Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Georgia, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kyrgyz Republic, Mexico, Peru, Philippines, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey and Vietnam.

Read more at ventures-africa.com.

Related:
Ethiopia, Rwanda, Uganda, Norway Co-host First GETHealth Summit at the U.N. (TADIAS)

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Ethiopia, Rwanda, Uganda, Norway Co-host First Global Education & Technology Health Summit

The global education and technology health (GETHealth) summit was held at the United Nations in New York from February 6- 7th, 2013. (Photo: Tadias Magazine)

Tadias Magazine
By Tseday Alehegn

Published: Monday, February 11, 2013

New York (TADIAS) – The first Global Education and Technology Health Summit was held at the United Nations in New York last week, which brought together academics, social entrepreneurs, distance learning experts, physicians, business leaders and ministers of health for a talk on the impact of mobile technologies to improve global health.

The summit was organized by Johns Hopkins Center for Clinical Global Health Education and Global Partnerships Forum and co-hosted by the International Telecommunication Union as well as the governments of Ethiopia, Rwanda, Uganda, and Norway.

Dr. Enawgaw Mehari, Neurologist and Founder of People to People (P2P) global network was a panelist discussing information and communications technologies, and the patient versus provider relationship. Citing his organization’s work, Mehari described the People to People as being founded on the principle of triangular partnership consisting of “the mother country (Africa), the Diaspora, and Western institutions.” The main effort is to “implement programs that contribute to closing the gap through education, training, and research,” Mehari told Tadias in a later interview. An example of such a program was an emergency medicine initiative coordinated by People to People, Black Lion Hospital in Addis Ababa, and Wisconsin University as well as a neurology program at Black Lion Hospital in collaboration with the Mayo Clinic.

Another panelist, Ms. Amy Lockwood, Deputy Director of the Center for Innovation in Global Health at Stanford University, supported Mehari and the role that individuals from the Diaspora can play by noting that pilots implemented by NGOs or student interns are short-term and don’t help to form the deeper, and more meaningful connections needed to scale and grow programs. “When you are a member of the Diaspora you have an umbilical cord” she said and urged practitioners to move towards implemented innovative projects with the support and collaboration of diaspora resources.

Dr. Seble Frehywot, Principal Investigator of the MEPI Coordinating Center at George Washington University also presented on the topic of creating centers of excellence for ICT in health education and research training that would likewise serve as hubs of innovation.

Ethiopian Diaspora physicians participating in the summit included Dr. Senait Fisseha from the University of Michigan who is both a doctor and lawyer by training and is involved in global health activities in collaboration with medical schools in Ethiopia. She felt the summit was “an interesting meeting looking at the impact of technology to improve health care services as well as global medical education,” but also pointed out that she “would like to see more healthcare providers and stakeholders at this meeting as well as diaspora from all African and Asian countries who really have a vested interest in addition to NGOs and funders.” She travels once a month to Ethiopia to oversee projects that are currently being developed on the ground.

On the topic of leveraging mobile technology to strengthen health systems, Dr. Ferew Lemma Feyissa, Senior Advisor at the Ministry of Health in Ethiopia, told Tadias that the summit has enabled them to network and meet with various technology company representatives including from Dell and Verizon who have shown interest in working with them as private sector partners. An area of health that Ethiopian Ministry of Health is primarily focused on is improving maternal and child health outcomes, and expanding emergency obstetric care at the district level. Dr. Feyissa notes that Ministry is also using mobile technology tools to “help us enhance the skills of health extension workers in the primary health care unit.” In the future, Ethiopia also hopes to use mobile health to address chronic care and to support the vastly expanded medical education system in Ethiopia.

During the ministerial addresses, Ethiopia’s Minister of Health, Dr. Kesetebirhan Admazu Birhane, described the three-tier health system, which is comprised of health centers and community health extension workers. “We consider our community health extension program as a pillar of our health system,” he said. “And through this program we have trained and deployed 38,000 health extension workers, with two workers per village.” Most of these professionals are women who have been “tasked to do health promotion, disease prevention, and provide basic curative services,” he added. The four areas of support for them include data exchange, improving supply chain so that workers are receiving supplies on a continuous basis, and using mobile technology to improve both communication between the community health extension workers and labs and hospitals. One outcome of this program is that “we have seen an increase in antenatal visits as well as an increase in institutional delivery rates,” Dr. Birhane said, citing the use of mobile technology to reduce maternal mortality in Ethiopia. “So the challenge is to have the same quality of success at scale.”

Similarly, the Director of e-health at the Rwandan Ministry of Health said his nation has three community health workers per 75,000 villagers, which exceeds the goal of the million community health worker campaign for Sub-Saharan Africa announced by President Paul Kagame, Novartis CEO Joseph Jiminez, and Columbia Professor Jeffrey Sachs this past January at the World Economic Forum.

In addressing some of the current challenges faced, Dr. Birhane noted the recent expansion of Ethiopia’s medical schools from just three to 25 new medical schools. Dr. Birhane spoke of the difficulty in retention of physicians who leave and practice in other countries, and mentioned the initiative to increase medical school enrollment capacity from “150 five years ago to 3,000 this year.” The challenge is that “we don’t have enough faculty,” he said, “and that’s where technology will definitely help.”

Dr. Wuleta Lemma, Director for the Center for Global Health Equity at Tulane University and Country Director for Tulane’s program in Ethiopia has been working for several years in Addis Ababa spearheading the development of a pre-service Master’s training program in health monitoring and evaluation, as well implementing an e-health and mobile health strategy called HealthNet in collaboration with the Ethiopian Ministry of Health.

Speaking of such efforts, Dr. Birhane said “we have tried to create a linkage between universities in Europe and the U.S. with our newer medical schools. And we have also created a network with the Ethiopian Diaspora.” He added, “I would like to call upon our partners here to work with us to really improve the quality of medical education in Ethiopia using information and communications technologies.”

State Minister for Primary Health Care in Uganda, Ms. Sarah Opendi cited similar hardship in the retention of trained doctors in her country, noting physician preferences to work for higher pay in the private sector or abroad. Yet, by using mobile technologies, Uganda has improved service delivery and monitoring of medicines, and has better quality of data from monthly reports, as well as improved anonymous consultation services for HIV/AIDS patients through the national, toll-free hotline. Uganda has also “connected regional referral hospitals with the national hospital so that doctors can easily consult with their colleagues.”

The Minister of State for Health in Nigeria, Dr. Alit Pate, shared with participants that his country has 65,000 registered health extension workers, but more initiative is needed, especially when it comes to evaluating the impact of using mobile technology to improve health outcomes. He mentioned an online portal for training midwives that initially received a lot of hits but then experienced a decline in submissions, and emphasized that incentives need to be put in place to encourage community health extension workers to continue submitting valuable data used for tracking progress.

Incentives such as providing promotion opportunities for community health workers to supervisory levels, and providing access to medical education via distance learning modules to increase medical student enrollment and retention are just a few ways that Dr. Feyissa at the Ethiopian Ministry of Health hopes to build and maintain a trained health workforce. Uganda’s integrated use of an innovative health system tracking service known as IHRIS is yet another avenue for better monitoring and evaluation of health outcomes.

The Summit also covered subjects such as health and media literacy, and leveraging social media to address issues including increasing organ donation. Sarah Wynn-Williams, Manager of Global Public Policy at Facebook informed the audience that the launch of Facebook organ donation profiles increased organ donation by 800% in California in the first week alone.

Lee Wells, Head of Health Programs (Africa) at Vodaphone Foundation looked forward to translating the success of mobile money such as the M-Pesa system in Kenya to the mobile health sector. He stated that “last year, 25% of Kenya’s GDP was transferred via M-Pesa mobile system.” He emphasized “It’s low-cost, let’s use what’s already available.”

Below are photos from the event:



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In Pictures: Global Survey of Trachoma Eye Infections Begins in Ethiopia

Genemo Abdela is one of the many surveyors responsible for examining almost 600,000 people in Ethiopia. (Photo: Sightsavers)

Tadias Magazine
News Update

Updated: Monday, January 14, 2013

New York (TADIAS) – Global efforts to eliminate the most common infectious cause of blindness, trachoma, has taken an ambitious step forward as mapping of the disease began in Ethiopia last week. The global survey, funded by the UK government, aims to see a sample of four million people across more than 30 countries examined by March 2015 to identify where people are living at risk and where treatment programs are needed.

According to a press release by Sightsavers, a British non-profit organization that heads the project, the blinding disease is already known to affect more than 21 million people but it is estimated that an additional 180 million people worldwide live in areas where trachoma is highly prevalent.

The first survey started this week in Oromia, in central Ethiopia where 22 million people live in suspected endemic areas. Five-year-old Bigiltuu Kefeni, and her family from Keta Town in the region were among the first of four million people to be examined by a specially trained ophthalmic nurse. The availability of water, sanitation and hygiene facilities in their village was also recorded, with all data captured on a smart phone.

It is the first time that mobile data has been used to survey a global health issue on such a wide scale. The final data will be mapped and made available online at www.trachomaatlas.org.



Related:
Mapping trachoma eye infections in Ethiopia – in pictures (The Guardian)

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Looking Ahead to AIDS-Free Generation

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (AP)

VOA News

By Joe DeCapua

2012 was a year when political leaders and top health officials freely spoke of attaining an AIDS-free generation. In November, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton unveiled a blueprint for achieving that goal.

Secretary Clinton said not long ago it would have been impossible to speak of an AIDS-free generation.

“Now by an AIDS-free generation, I mean one where, first, virtually no children are born with the virus. Second, as these children become teenagers and adults they are at far lower risk of becoming infected than they would be today, thanks to a wide range of prevention tools. And third, if they do acquire HIV, they have access to treatment that helps prevent them from developing AIDS and passing the virus on to others,” she said.

Mrs. Clinton made the comment in a speech at the National Institutes of Health. She said that HIV may be with us well into the future, but the disease that it causes need not be.”

“Now, while the finish line is not yet in sight we know we can get there because now we know the route we need to take. It requires all of us to put a variety of scientifically proven prevention tools to work in concert with each other,” she said.

Those tools include effective treatment, male circumcision, eliminating stigma and discrimination and preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV. It’s a combination approach to stopping the spread of HIV.

Mitchell Warren, head of the AIDS advocacy group AVAC, applauds the U.S. blueprint for an AIDS-free generation.

“That was by far the culmination of a great year. That blueprint, which she put out, really recommits the U.S. government to a bold agenda to both provide both direct support for treatment and for prevention around the world. It also throws down the challenge to countries all over the world to really step it up and join the U.S. government in this commitment,” he said.

But Warren said bold speeches must be followed by bold actions.

“2012 will certainly be remembered as the year when the conversation changed. The big question is will we see movement beyond just the conversation,” he said.

Warren said besides outlining the immediate needs in fighting the epidemic, Mrs. Clinton’s address also highlighted the importance of scientific research.

“The same research that got us to this point is just as important going forward, particularly around the search for a microbicide and the search for a vaccine and eventually a cure,” he said.

In the last few years there’s been promising research in both vaccines and microbicides. However, follow-up studies are not expected to provide any findings until 2014 or later.

“So it’s a longer term trajectory, a longer horizon, but the science is as exciting as it’s ever been in AIDS vaccines. And certainly we need to keep pushing for that longer term solution even as we deliver on the tools that we have today,” said warren.

Dr. Anthony Fauci is one of the top U.S. scientists working on HIV/AIDS. He’s head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. At July’s International AIDS Conference in Washington, he said learning how HIV replicates revealed some of its weaknesses.

“It’s that kind of basic science which brings us to the next step. And that is the step of interventions, predominantly in the arena of treatment and prevention,” he said.

Dr. Fauci called for a “care continuum…That is seeking out, testing, linking to care, treating when eligible and making sure they adhere.”

AVAC’s Mitchell Warren said the international AIDS conference held much promise. But 2013 will determine whether it’s a promise fulfilled.

“If in mid-2013 or World AIDS Day 2013, we look back and say, wow, that conference told us it was possible and we blew it — we blew the opportunity of changing the way we did our work — then it will have been an enormous failure. 2013 needs to be the year that we really transition from rhetoric to reality. . 2013 needs to be the year that we really transition from rhetoric to reality,” he said.

As the New Year begins, an unwelcome realty will be continued tight international spending, as many advocates hope to gear up research, treatment and prevention.
—-
Related:
Audio: Listen to De Capua report on HIV in 2012

Ethiopia Moving to Address Doctor Shortage; Critics Say Corners Being Cut

Photo credit: Ethiopian Medical Students' Association (EMSA)

Public Radio International

Ethiopia has struggled with a shortage of qualified doctors for years. In an effort to resolve that, it’s vastly increased the sizes of existing classes and opened 13 new schools. But critics say Ethiopia is training a generation of woefully unqualified doctors.

Click here to listen to this report.

The pediatrics wing of St. Paul’s Hospital in Addis Ababa is a busy place. Nervous parents move in and out, waiting for their kids to be seen.

There aren’t a lot of doctors here, but there is one group of people that seems to be everywhere: young, white-coated medical students.

Until recently, Ethiopia had just one physician for every 100,000 people, but now the country is dramatically increasing the number of doctors it produces.

This year, the government opened 13 new medical schools, which more than doubled the number in the country. Ethiopia has also been increasing enrollment at existing schools.

“This year, for the first time, we enrolled 3,100 medical students, which is almost tenfold compared to what we used to enroll five, six years ago,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom, Ethiopia’s foreign minister, who until recently served as minister of health.

Tedros says Ethiopia’s severe physician shortage is one of the country’s most pressing concerns.

Watch: A Glimpse Inside an Ethiopian Medical School


Read more at PRI.

Report From Second Community Forum on Mental Health – Video

The second community forum on mental health took place on Saturday, December 15th, 2012 at the Shaw Neighborhood Library in D.C. (Image credit: Filmstock Inc)

Tadias Magazine
By Tsedey Aragie

Updated: Friday, December 21, 2012

Washington, DC (TADIAS) – Last week I hosted the second public forum on mental health here in Washington, D.C. The interactive get-together attracted over 100 participants from across the country who joined the conversation via conference call as well as an online live stream channel in addition to those who attended in person at the Shaw Neighborhood Library.

I am happy to report that it was another fruitful and educational event. My only regret is that we ran out of time before we could cover all the speakers because we did not assign and monitor time segments properly, which we will fix next time.

One of the key point that was repeatedly emphasized at the meeting was the need to incorporate religious leaders in this dialogue as well as in the treatment and healing process for individuals. There are studies that show that the close knit and communal nature of our culture does play a protective role in preventing mental illness.

As tax payers we do have the right to vocalize the importance of including natural remedies to be recognized as part of the treatment plan by lobbying the appropriate government agencies that write the policies governing health service providers.

It was also noted that there is an abundance of health professionals among the Ethiopian & Eritrean populations in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area, but that talent pool is under-utilized. Often medical professionals are at the forefront of this fight and if given the proper training could recognize any ongoing mental health issues as they are developing, most importantly as it relates to substance abuse and addiction.

We also learned that the World Health Organization has partnered with the Ethiopian Ministry of Health to implement a Mental Health program in Ethiopia that could also be used as a resource.

The impact of Post Traumatic Syndrome Disorder (PTSD), which is commonly found among war veterans in this country, is another mental health problem that affects immigrants who have witnessed violence in close proximity, and how detrimental these effects are on a person’s psychological well-being, especially for those who have experienced violence in the Horn of Africa. Another issue raised was the impact of political oppression and how it affects an individual’s psychological makeup.

We also received an update from the working-team that was tasked to conduct research. The advocacy-group is led by the organization “My Love in Action” and they are to come up with a needs assessment survey, and create outreach programs geared towards collaborating with organizations that work with professionals in the behavioral science fields, including educational institutions, as well as student associations. They are making progress but they need your help so please get involved.

Sadly, our event took place the day following the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut where a 20-year-old gunman shot and killed 26 people – mostly children – at Sandy Hook Elementary School before committing suicide himself. Our thoughts and prayers remain with the victims’ families.

Below is a short video featuring clips from the “Second Community Forum on Mental Health” held on Saturday December 15th. I will keep you posted on future gatherings. In the meantime, you can follow updates on twitter @MyLoveInAction.

Watch: Clips from the “Second Community Forum on Mental Health” held on December 15th


Related:
Community Forum II on Mental Health Announcement
Interview With Dr. Welansa Asrat About Mental Health Taboo in the Ethiopian Community

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Interview With Filmmaker Brenda Davis

Still photograph from the movie 'Sister," which tells the story of health workers in Ethiopia, Cambodia and Haiti whose daily work is to help women give birth. (Photo: Family at a district hospital in Tigray, Ethiopia/Image credit: Swati Guild)

Tadias Magazine
By Tigist Selam

Updated: Sunday, December 16, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – Earlier this month I attended one of the screenings of the documentary film Sister as part of the recently concluded African Diaspora International Film Festival here in New York.

An intimate portrait of a universal topic, the documentary frames maternal and newborn death as a human rights issue while shedding light on the faces behind the statistics. The film takes place in Ethiopia, Cambodia and Haiti as it explores innovative ways to deliver healthcare to childbearing women in remote parts of the world. The main characters are a Haitian traditional birth attendant, an Ethiopian male health officer, and a rural midwife in Cambodia.

The filmmaker, who is a Canadian citizen and a resident of New York City for the past 20 years, said she chose to highlight Ethiopia because the country is trying “new strategies and local solutions” to tackle the issue. “I am especially fascinated by Ethiopian healthcare professionals who used to be field medics during the civil war in the North who have now been retrained with further skills for civilian work.”

“In 2008, I was documenting a heath record training for health workers from Africa and Asia,” Brenda said. “I spent 3 weeks with them and involved in several activities including filming lectures in the city. One of the attendees was a health-care officer from Ethiopia named Goitom Berhane. When I got home and started transcribing their stories I found myself just weeping. And I told myself I have to make a movie about this.” Berhane eventually ends up being prominently featured in the film.

“The subject has been floating around me my whole life,” she continued. “As a child, my grandmother Martha had 16 children and only 11 lived and one of them was my mom.” She added: “And I was born by an emergency cesarian. I was the last of eight children.”

Brenda said that she finds parallels to her own family story and what most young women face in developing countries today. “There is a great research paper called ‘Under the Shadow of Maternity’ about childbirth and women’s lives in North America at the turn of the last century and the issues were the same. My grandmother was giving birth to stillborn babies between 1919 and 1939. People did not have all the resources, all the information; they did not know, they did not ask the right questions. It was a mystery to them. They were poor, they did not have access to family planning.”

Brenda’s interest is to document “current and local solutions” to the age-old health problem.

For news and updates about the film follow @Sister_Doc on Twitter, SisterDocumentary on Facebook, or visit: sisterdocumentary.com.

Watch the teaser trailer here


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Ethiopia Introduces Health-Care Service Via Phone

Photo credit: UNAMID/flickr

VOA News

Marthe Van Der Wolf

ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA — Ethiopia is launching medical services over the phone. A young Ethiopian doctor is starting the service in an attempt to improve access to health care across the country.

“HelloDoctor” is Ethiopia’s first general medical hotline, in which a small fee is taken from a person’s mobile phone credit to receive medical advice or request home-care service.

Dr. Yohans Wodaje is the young Ethiopian doctor who founded HelloDoctor. He said that healthcare services for the average Ethiopian will improve through the new service, as there are not enough doctors and clinics for the whole population.

“Despite the huge improvement that Ethiopia made in the past 10 years regarding health coverage in its attempt to make universal basic health coverage a reality of the Ethiopian people, there are still many big challenges,” he said. “And you have a very few number of highly skilled, highly specialized professionals, then you definitely need to link technology with those professionals to multiply the effect that they would have.”

Phone consultations

Getting medical advice by phone has happened in the United States, Canada, Australia and more recently also in parts of Latin America and Asia. A common question about the practice is whether doctors can give adequate advice without seeing the patient.

Wodaje agreed that face-to-face consultations are preferable. He said, though, that it is not always realistic in Ethiopia.

“We opt for phone-based consultations in situations, especially if you have to travel long distances to get to a health facility, if you have to wait in long lines to get to a health professional,” he said. “And also, the professionals you need may not always be of the level that is required to help you.”

An average conversation lasts four minutes and costs about $2, which is still a lot of money for most Ethiopians. But a visit to a clinic, including transportation costs when living outside the city, usually adds up to $15.

Physicians prepared

The doctors working for the service are mostly in their late 20s. It provides them with extra employment, something the government might welcome because many doctors today pursue careers abroad.

Anteneh Kassahun plans to become one of the doctors for the service. He feels it gives him more opportunities.

“The first thing is, we will help our country, especially those who live in rural areas, they don’t get doctors. So when they need the health information they can call us and right away we will support them,” said Kassahun. “The second thing is we have jobs in different hospitals and clinics, so we do it in our free time. The third thing is we get other training, especially how to talk to people, how to communicate with people and other things. And the fourth thing is we get extra money.”

Vast medical need

The Ethiopian government has employed 10 times as many health extension workers in recent years, but there is still a long way to go before everybody in the country can easily access health care.

Ahmed Emano of the Ethiopian Ministry of Health said that Ethiopia needs the involvement of private initiatives to improve health-care services in the country.

“If you take the private clinics in Addis Ababa, there are 2,015 health services in Addis Ababa only. From this, about 60 percent – more than 60 percent – are private services,” said Emano. “So the government is already supporting all private partners and we establish public-private partnership with private service givers, so especially when we say the high level and some specialized services, we give support to private people who can afford to establish this type of services in the country.”

The World Health Organization recommends that in any country there should be no less than one doctor for every 10,000 citizens. Ethiopia currently has one doctor employed for every 33,500 people.

The pressure on health services in Ethiopia is due to increase as the population – now at 85 million – continues growing rapidly. Also, people in rural areas generally lack access to health care, and 84 percent of Ethiopians live in the rural parts of the country.

Related from VOA News:
Ethiopia Introduces Mobile Banking
Despite Fast Growth, Ethiopia Still Plagued by Poverty

Read more news at VOA.

Community Forum on Mental Health – Saturday December 15th

Speakers at 'Community Forum on Mental Health' held in Washington, DC on August 25, 2012. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Tsedey Aragie

Published: Thursday, December 6, 2012

Washington, DC (TADIAS) – The issue of mental health and how we deal with it in our community has once again come to the forefront following a string of tragic incidents over the past year, including suicides and murders, that have saddened and shocked many families.

This past August I hosted a community forum in Washington, DC to learn from these tragedies and explore solutions. The gathering resulted in establishing an advocacy-group that was tasked to conduct research, come-up with needs assessment survey, and create outreach programs geared towards collaborating with organizations that work with professionals in the behavioral science fields, including educational institutions, as well as student associations.

I will be moderating a follow-up conversation on the topic next weekend as we continue the discussion surrounding the hidden mental illness crisis affecting members of the Ethiopian and Eritrean communities here in the U.S. The meeting is scheduled for Saturday December 15th at Watha T. Daniel-Shaw Neighborhood Library in D.C. We have some great speakers, but your feedback is going to be very valuable.

For those of you who live outside Washington, you can still partake via a conference call (see info below) or follow the discussion live online.


Conference Call access: 213.226.0400, PIN# 939807

If You Go:
Community Forum II- Mental Health
Saturday December 15th
2-5pm
Shaw Library
1630 7th Street, NW Washington D.C. 20001
Watch a Live Stream of the event at the scheduled time at:
www.ustream.tv/channel/filmstockinc
Follow us on twitter @ MyLoveInAction

Related:
Interview With Dr. Welansa Asrat About Mental Health Taboo in the Ethiopian Community

Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

Science Blog: Ethiopians, Tibetans Thrive in Thin Air Using Different Genes

Photo: Ethiopian runners train in high altitude. (Selamta Magazine)

Science Blog

Scientists say they have pinpointed genetic changes that allow some Ethiopians to live and work more than a mile and a half above sea level without getting altitude sickness.

The specific genes differ from those reported previously for high-altitude Tibetans, even though both groups cope with low-oxygen in similar physiological ways, the researchers report. If confirmed, the results may help scientists understand why some people are more vulnerable to low blood oxygen levels caused by factors other than altitude — such as asthma, sleep apnea, heart problems or anemia — and point to new ways to treat them, the researchers say.

Living with less

Lower air pressure at high altitude means fewer oxygen molecules for every breath. “At 4000 meters, every lungful of air only has 60% of the oxygen molecules that people at sea level have,” said co-author Cynthia Beall of Case Western Reserve University.

To mop up scarce oxygen from thin air, travelers to high altitude compensate by making more hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying component of human blood. But high hemoglobin comes with a cost. Over the long term, excessive hemoglobin can increase the risk of blood clots, stroke, and chronic mountain sickness, a disease characterized by thick and viscous blood.

“Altitude affects your thinking, your breathing, and your ability to sleep. But high-altitude natives don’t have these problems,” said Beall, who has studied high altitude adaptation in different populations in Ethiopia, Peru and Tibet for more than 20 years. “They don’t wheeze like we do. Their thinking is fine. They sleep fine. They don’t complain of headaches. They’re able to live a healthy life, and they do it completely comfortably,” she added.

Click here to read more at scienceblog.com.

Ambassadors for Health: Primary Medical Care in Ethiopia

Health extension workers at the Sululta health centre are helping increase the number of babies who receive vaccination against deadly diseases. (Photograph: Petterik Wiggers/Panos)

The Guardian

By Evelyn Owen

Skilled and respected workers have revolutionised neighbourhood healthcare in Ethiopia – using a model other countries could follow. Evelyn Owen discovers how the programme works and the problems it has confronted

In the hubbub of the vaccination clinic, young mother Damanech Alemu waits patiently with a tiny blue bundle nestled in her arms. Six-week-old Ermias is about to receive the injections that will safeguard him against an array of common diseases, including diphtheria, whooping cough and polio.

“I’m glad to be here, because it means healthy development and a safe life for my son,” Alemu says afterwards, comforting her baby. “I made an appointment, I came here, and I received the service, so I’m happy about that.”

Alemu’s trip to Sululta health centre might sound perfectly ordinary, but less than a quarter of Ethiopian children under the age of two are fully vaccinated. The service offered here, 20 miles north of Addis Ababa, is only possible thanks to the expertise and enthusiasm of the women in white coats bustling about the clinic, preparing needles, checking charts and filling in forms. They are health extension workers (HEWs) – the backbone of Ethiopia’s health system.

Read more at The Guardian.

Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

Battling Cancer in Ethiopia: Interview with Cancer Survivor Tsige Birru-Benti

Photo courtesy of the London-based non-profit organization BCE (Battling Cancer in Ethiopia).

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: Monday, October 22, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – While October is designated as international Breast Cancer Awareness Month, cancer screening in Ethiopia is almost nonexistent, says cancer survivor Mrs. Tsige Birru-Benti, who is one of the founders of BCE (Battling Cancer in Ethiopia), a U.K. based charity organization that promotes early cancer screening in Ethiopia as well as raises funds for the Black Lion Hospital Cancer Center in Addis Ababa.

“The short term objective is to equip the Oncology Unit of the Black Lion Hospital (BLH) by raising fund to buy CT Simulators that benefit cancer treatment planning,” Tsige said. “The long term objective is to work with other institutions in Ethiopia to create awareness among the urban and rural population regarding the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.”

According to Tsige the Oncology Unit at BLH currently has approximately 6,000 cancer patients, with only 3 specialist doctors. “Every year the unit takes at least 2,000 newly diagnosed patients but the waiting time to start treatment is usually more than 6 months,” she said. “In the meantime a large number of patients die without any help or any source of pain relief.”

As to her own battle with the disease, Tsige shared: “Being a cancer survivor, I can testify to the suffering that I went through and what it means to be relieved from pain and the importance of proper medical care. In January 2010, I was diagnosed with Lymphoma B-Cell grade 2 cancer. Being in London, where facilities are in place my treatment was on the fast track and commenced within a month. I went through 6 cycles of chemotherapy and 2 cycles of Rituximab. At the end of July 2010 I had finished all my medical treatment and thank God now I am enjoying good health once again.”

Tsige said her wish is for all cancer patients in Ethiopia to have the same access to professional medical care as she did during her illness in England. “There is a lack of awareness about cancer in Ethiopia compared to other chronic diseases that are widely publicized. Therefore, when people begin to develop symptoms, more often than not, they tend to resort to traditional medicine.”

Regarding BCE, she added: “We plan to knock on every door to spread cancer awareness in Ethiopia and raise funds to reach our goal. As the Amharic saying goes ‘hamsa lomi leand sew shekmu new lehamsa sew gen getu new‘ (50 lemons are a load for one individual but for 50 individuals each lemon is like an accessory). This is what is required of Ethiopians worldwide, to be united as hand-to-a-glove for this project.”

We commend Tsige on her initiative for better cancer screening and services and encourage you to visit the BCE website to learn more.

Gomen for Breakfast?

In the following Health Section piece Nesanet Abegaze shares the benefits of green juice. She is a certified yoga teacher, and health educator with a focus on vegan food preparation. She works as an executive at an entertainment company in Los Angeles. (Photo credit: Gaby Dalkin)

Tadias Magazine
By Nesanet Teshager Abegaze

Published: Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Los Angeles (TADIAS) – Summer is officially here, and while everybody loves the sunshine, some of us are coming to terms with the fact that our New Years Resolutions never made it past January. This can bring on a sense of alarm as the layers of clothing come off, and may lead us to desperate measures (i.e.- drinking lemonade with berbere for 10 days). While these quick fixes are tempting, and may help us squeeze into an outfit for a special event, they aren’t sustainable.

Rather than beat ourselves up for not sticking with our New Years resolutions, we can look at summer as a time to recommit to our health and fitness plan. With the warmer temperature, we naturally crave lighter foods, making this a great time to transition to a diet with more fresh foods. In my own life, adding small manageable practices into my daily routine has been very fruitful (pun intended)! One of my favorite additions to my diet this year has been green smoothies, which I drink almost daily.

While green smoothies may look a little like a failed attempt at gomen, they are delicious and have numerous health benefits. They are simply a liquid base blended with fruit and leafy greens. When consumed first thing in the morning, green smoothies give you a natural energy boost, and will help you get that summer glow in no time.

*Very nutrient dense and a great source of plant based protein
*Chlorophyll aids in detoxification/blood purification.
* Easily digestible vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants provide increased energy
*High fiber content promotes colon health and keeps you full
*Help you stay hydrated
*Balance blood sugar and reduces cravings for sweets, salts, and junk food
*Consuming greens in the form of green smoothies reduces the consumption of oils and salt found in salad dressing

When I started experimenting with green smoothies, I simply added spinach or kale to my fruit smoothies. Over time, I’ve gotten much more creative, and tapped into recipes from Green Smoothie advocates such as Kimberly Snyder and Victoria Boutenko.

I love the recipe below and make it every morning before work, modifying it based on what’s available at my local farmers market. I’ve shared it with my loved ones, and my co-workers and family members are all hooked. In fact, my 2 year-old nephew whips out his cup as soon as he sees me pull out leafy greens, and my office manager recently purchased a Vitamix blender for the office.

Green Smoothie Recipe:

4 cups water

1 bunch of your favorite greens (kale, spinach, and romaine lettuce are my favorites)

2 stalks celery

2 small cucumbers

2 apples

2 bananas

Juice of 1 lemon

1 cup ice

Optional: 2 inch slice of fresh ginger (great for digestion!)

Serves 2-3 people.

A lot of these ingredients are probably already in your fridge (think salata minus the karya). Drink regularly and everyone will think you’ve just returned from vacation in Awassa or Bahir Dar!
—-
Related:
Shiro, The Sure Thing: Why It’s Good For You

Yared Tekabe Uses Molecular Imaging for Early Detection of Heart Disease

Dr. Yared Tekabe runs studies in cardiovascular disease detection and prevention at Columbia University. (Photo: Tekabe at his office at William Black building in upper Manhattan - Courtesy photograph)

Tadias Magazine
By Tseday Alehegn

Published: Wednesday, January 25, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – In Spring 2009, we featured Dr. Yared Tekabe’s groundbreaking work on non-invasive atherosclerosis detection and molecular imaging, which was published in the American Heart Association´s journal, Circulation. As in most chronic heart disease conditions, the plaque that accumulates in blood vessels is usually not detected until it leads to serious, and often fatal, blockages of blood supply such as during an episode of heart attack or stroke. Having received a $1.6 million grant from the National Institute of Health Tekabe’s research focused on the use of novel molecular imaging techniques to identify sites of inflammation that can help us with early detection of atherosclerosis.

In 2010, his work was highlighted in Osborn & Jaffer’s review entitled “The Year in Molecular Imaging,” noting that Tekabe and colleagues had developed a tracer that imaged RAGE — a receptor for advanced glycation end products, which is implicated in a host of inflammation-related diseases including artherosclerosis, cancer, diabetes and alzheimer’s. Tekabe’s group, along with his colleague Dr. Ann Marie Schmidt, holds a patent for this RAGE-directed imaging technology.

Tekabe’s lab also used similar imaging technology to detect RAGE in mouse models who had artifically-induced ischemia (restriction of blood supply) in their left anterior descending coronary artery, which is the main supplier of blood to the left ventricle. When blood supply is restored (reperfusion), the sudden change may also cause further inflammation and tissue damage from impact. By being able to trace RAGE and pathways of inflammation using molecular imaging techniques, Tekabe has demonstrated that the highest RAGE expressing cells were the injured heart muscle cells undergoing programmed cell death.

Tekabe’s research in myocardial ischemic/reperfusion injury showed that RAGE could be traced in areas of inflammation in a non-invasive manner in live mouse subjects. The findings were presented at the 2011 World Molecular Imaging Congress scientific session, and was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology in January 2012. An editorial entitled ‘Visualizing the RAGE: Molecular Imaging After MI Provides Insight Into a Complex Receptor” accompanied Tekabe’s article, and emphasized that Tekabe’s research “continues to provide a solid foundation and proof of concept” that non-invasive imaging of RAGE following induced myocardial ischemia “is feasible” in live subjects.

Tekabe’s findings also have important implications for future antibody therapy formulations that can be used to treat RAGE-related chronic conditions. Tekabe hopes to translate his studies on mouse models to larger mammals and eventually to humans. Molecular imaging studies such as the one Tekabe has undertaken are critical in prevention of chronic cardiac conditions and could potentially decrease the number of sudden deaths from heart attack as it may allow physicians to make early and life-saving diagnoses.

When asked if there was anything else that he’d like to share with our readers, Dr. Tekabe replied, “Oh yes, since childhood, apart from my research, I’ve always wanted to involve myself in an Ethiopian movie, acting as the main character. Like in a love story. I hope to do this someday.”

Related:
Yared Tekabe’s Groundbreaking Research in Heart Disease (TADIAS – March 17th, 2009)

Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

Shiro, The Sure Thing: Why It’s Good For You

As we welcome the holiday season and the tradition of sharing food and thanks with loved ones, we thought it worthwhile to take a moment to reflect on Ethiopia’s rich food traditions. In this piece Dr. Asqual Getaneh invites us to look at one dish in particular – the shiro.

Tadias Magazine
By Dr. Asqual Getaneh

Saturday, November 26, 2011

New York (TADIAS) – Whether or not it is made from toasted or raw beans, cooked thick or thin, spiced up or buttered, shiro along with other legumes is perhaps the most nourishing, ubiquitous and affordable dish in Ethiopia. Unfortunately, shiro appears less frequently on dinner tables as a result of economic and social success. The trend is an irrational and en masse adoption of Western commercial diets (along with culture and politics); yet, the same diets are the main culprits for the growing health problem in the U.S. and Europe. We grab on fistfuls of processed foods in beautifully designed packets in lieu of our traditional diet. In this, we, Ethiopians, are not alone. Very few traditions have successfully resisted the marketing lure and the temptation of colorfully wrapped easy-to-cook and ready-to-eat meals. It does not help, that no one celebrates with shiro and that it is used to express pity or religious compunction. As a result, shiro recedes even further from our esteem and creative culinary imaginations.

Against this tide, we would like to argue that shiro and other legumes should be celebrated victuals in Ethiopian households (and non-Ethiopian households) for the following reasons. First, shiro is a healthy source of both macro-and micro-nutrients. Depending on regional preferences, a typical shiro dish is made from one of three legumes, broad (fava) beans, chick peas (garbanzo) or round peas, or as in the current trend, from flour mixture of all three beans. Although there are some differences in nutrient content, each of these legumes is a low fat source of protein, carbohydrate, fiber, iron and folate, among numerous other vitamins and minerals.

For those of you worried about getting adequate protein from beans, according to the USDA the average woman and man require 46 grams and 51 grams of protein per day respectively. However, for elite athletes the daily requirement is as high as 1.37 grams per kilograms of body weight per day. A cup of shiro provides about 16.3 grams of protein. Compare this with 20 grams of protein in a serving of chicken breast, 19 grams in salmon and 22 grams in beef steak.

Second, shiro is usually served with tomato salad and vegetables such as collard greens (gomen), cabbage, or string beans and carrot (fasolia), dishes that are rich in vitamin A and C. In addition gomen and cabbage have vitamin K and folate and are filled with phytochemicals including diindolymethane, and sulforaphane — antioxidants that boost the body’s cancer fighting potential. Carrots and tomatoes have carotenoids and tomatoes contain lycopene — a specific type of carotenoid that has a strong antioxidant property. When mixed with berbere, shiro provides additional vitamin A.

Shiro as many other Ethiopian dishes is never eaten without injera, preferably injera made of teff -a super grain that rivals quinoa in its proportional protein and superior calcium and iron content. In sufficient quantities, Teff also provides a third of the daily requirement for riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate and other micronutrients. Those of us living in the United States and outside of the Washington DC area, are not lucky enough to easily obtain teff-based injera and have to resort to various other combinations that are not as nutritious and that can be more calorie dense than teff-based injera. So, when consuming non-teff based injera, it is prudent to assess calorie and carbohydrate content, especially if one is concerned about obesity, metabolic diseases or have diabetes.

Third, “shiro yum!”. Ok, we may be shooting for the stars trying to sell creamy delicious shiro to kurt-loving readers and during the holiday season. But get into your meditative zone and consider all the possible flavors in shiro like coriander, cardamom, garlic, and berbere; also visualize other bean dishes like buticha, yeshimbra asa and ful. And, if only for an interesting addition to your bean dish cornucopia, foray into the unique land of hilbet, boquilt, siljo, or gulban. I guarantee if not your taste buds your body will be tingling happily. To err is human, so if you are not convinced enough to have shiro and other legumes frequently, we hope that this will at least engage your culinary imagination to include shiro in some form in your diet.

In sum, shiro is a great source of protein; and when combined with vegetables and tomato salad shiro-based meals provide almost all of the average daily requirements of folate, vitamin A, C and K. Include the goodness of teff and the meal will have additional micronutrients such as iron, calcium and vitamin B6. For individuals concerned about carbohydrates, injera made of teff has low glycemia load by virtue of its proportional fiber and protein content (estimated glycemia load of 84 for a cup of uncooked teff, compare this to 104 for a cup of uncooked rice). Add the antioxidant properties of carotenoids and phytochemicals, and shiro and its accompaniments are now in the realm of food-as-medicine. Above all shiro tastes heavenly. At a minimum, we should curb our flight into the dizzying glitter of substitute foods, even as many in the West reverse their course through the growing slow, organic, farm-to-table and locovore food movements.

Dr. Asqual Getaneh is an Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine at Columbia University in New York and a contributor to Tadias Magazine.

Related:
Our Beef with Kitfo: Are Ethiopians in America Subscribing to the Super Sizing of Food?

Cover image: operagirlcooks.com.

GHCG Announces 4th Medical Mission to Ethiopia

The Ethio-American NGO Gemini Health Care Group says it's ready for its upcoming medical mission to Ethiopia.

Tadias Magazine
News Update

Published: Tuesday, March 15, 2011

New York (Tadias) – Gemini Health Care Group (GHCG), a U.S.-based Ethiopian American NGO that focuses on pediatric training and assistance to medical professionals in Ethiopia, launched its 4th annual educational and medical mission in March 2011.

“Beginning on March 18th, the GHCC Board members as well as eighteen health care professionals will be in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to provide teaching and service,” says Dr. Ebba K. Ebba, the group’s Founder and President. “The pediatric sub-specialists in the areas of pediatric ENT, Ophthalmology, Audiology, Anesthesia, and Urology will be providing training and medical assistance at Black Lion Hospital, Cure Hospital and Mekanissa School for the Deaf. This portion of the medical mission is being organized in collaboration with Healing the Children, Greater Philadelphia Chapter.”

During the team’s last trip to Addis they treated young people including 8-year-old Zemen Toshome, whose story was highlighted by Opinion Columnist Harold Jackson in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Jackson wrote: “For more than six years, Zemen has lived at Tikur Anbesa (Black Lion) Hospital in Addis Ababa. He goes outside only briefly on the hospital grounds. He can’t shout because of his medical condition. Zemen has laryngeal papillomatosis, a disease in which tumors grow inside the larynx, vocal cords, or respiratory tract. The disease occurs when the human papillomavirus (HPV) is transferred from a mother to her child at birth. The tumors can grow quickly and cause difficulty in breathing, which if not corrected can lead to death.”

“The second part of our medical mission includes a one‐week educational mission to pediatric residents and medical students at the Black Lion Hospital as well as to other community pediatricians,” Dr. Ebba says. “We have recruited four pediatric specialists in the areas of pediatric Pulmonology, Endocrinology, Neurology and Emergency medicine to be participants at the First Annual Pediatrics by the Nile.”

The latter is a medical education conference to be held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The conference, which is being co‐sponsored by the Ethiopian Pediatric Society, is scheduled to take place on Thursday March 31, 2011 and Friday, April 1, 2011 at the Addis Ababa Hilton.

You can learn more about Gemini Health Care Group at: www.GHCG.org.

Cover photo courtesy of GHCG.

Video: Dr. Ebba K. Ebba, Founder of Gemini Health Care Group, on 50 in 52 interview (2009)

Reducing Childbirth Injuries In Ethiopia

Above: ‘Today Show’ correspondent Jenna Bush Hager travels to
Ethiopia to shine light on maternal health. (Photo: Screen shot)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New York (Tadias) – “It is the oldest medical cause in the world. There is currency dug out of pyramids containing images of fistula, yet in the 21st century it is the most neglected cause,” Dr. Catherine Hamlin, Founder of the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital, said in an interview with Tadias Magazine a few years ago. She was speaking about a childbirth injury that affects one out of every 12 women in Africa and approximately three million women worldwide. In developing nations, such as Ethiopia, where access to hospitals in remote areas are difficult to find, young women suffer from obstructive labor and other childbirth related health issues, which can otherwise be successfully alleviated with adequate medical support. Unassisted labor in such conditions may lead to bladder, vaginal, and rectum injuries that incapacitate and stigmatize these women.

In the following MSNBC ‘Today Show’ video, contributing correspondent Jenna Bush Hager (the daughter of former President George W. Bush), travels to Ethiopia to shine light on maternal health. She focuses on the efforts underway by the non-profit organization CARE, in collaboration with local authorities, helping women to survive childbirth injuries. The segment makes the case for continued humanitarian U.S. assistance to reduce one of the world’s highest rates of maternal and infant mortalities. According to USAID, more than 500,000 women and girls in Ethiopia suffer from disabilities resulting from complications during pregnancy and childbirth each year, and over 25,000 women and girls die annually due to pregnancy–related complications.

Watch:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Farmers in Kansas seek to expand test plots of Ethiopian grain into marketable fields of teff

Above: Teff is gluten free and known for its flood and drought
resistance. This year 150 acres was planted in Kansas, down
from the 250 acres projected due to untimely rains. (Injera)

By Roxana Hegeman

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) – When black farmers in Kansas first began growing an Ethiopian cereal grain known as teff five years ago, they were intrigued by the crop’s connection to Africa.

Now, the Kansas Black Farmers Association is working with conservationists to expand test plots of teff into market-sized fields that farmers across the state can plant as an alternative crop.

“We get calls monthly from people wanting any teff we have so they can mill it for food,” said Darla Juhl, coordinator for the conservationists group, Solomon Valley Resource Conservation and Development Area. Some of those calls have come from people as far away as the Netherlands and Mexico.

Teff is gluten free and known for its flood and drought resistance. Read more.

Related from Tadias Archives:
Teff luck: What Has Piracy Got To Do With The Price of Injera?

Above: The media never resists stories of sea attacks, but
there is another type of piracy that hardly gets attention:
the looming intellectual property warfare in Africa.

Tadias Magazine
By Nemo Semret

Published: Sunday, January 31, 2010

New York (Tadias) – A few months ago, three Somalis pirates were at the center of world news as they haplessly tried to extort money from an American ship in the Indian Ocean. Three guys coming out of an anarchic isolated part of the world, risked their lives at sea. Two were killed and one now faces the death penalty in the US. Around the same time, three Swedes were found guilty of piracy — as in facilitating the sharing of copyrighted material on the Internet. In the widely publicized case of The Pirate Bay, a Bittorrent index service, three techies with the digital world at their fingertips, thumbed their noses at the law and faced, at worst, some time in the notoriously comfortable jails of Sweden.

The obvious analogy and contrast between these two stories is of course an easy target of ironic comment: piracy, old/new, physical/digital, poor/rich. But it also got me thinking about longer term connections. Indeed, which of those two events is more important symbolically for the future political economy of Africa? Which has more to do with the price of injera or ugali?

Armed men attacking ships at sea was a curious manifestation of the 18th century popping up in the 21st century. Western media and comedians in particular reacted to it as they would to a woolly mammoth buried in the permafrost of Siberia for 10,000 years suddenly thawing and starting to ramble around, Jurrassic Park-style. A pirate story is hard to resist, pirates captivate the imagination of kids, they make western adults feel smug about their own “more civilized” society where such things disappeared 200 years ago, but they also have a kind of radical chic, there’s a certain coolness to their image as rebels standing up to “the man”. They are many interesting things, but there’s also a less exotic reality: those pirates are increasing the cost of shipping anything through that part of the Indian Ocean, which in turn affects the cost of everything from food to energy in Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and even further inland, endangering the livelihood of millions of people in the region. Like drug traffickers, in reality they harm not only the world at large but mostly their own people. Unfortunately there’s nothing new about that. In fact, the story of Somali pirates over the last few years fits with the well-worn gloom and doom scenarios of Africa in the 21st century: failed states, increased marginalization, the danger of slipping into a modern dark ages, etc. you know the story.

But how about those Swedish Internet pirates? What do they have to do with Africa, where copyrights and patents have never been respected, and where there isn’t enough bandwidth for it to matter on the global scale anyway? A lot actually. It has got to do with something huge that is quietly reshaping the world: the ever expanding scope of intellectual property. Ok, just in case that was not emphasized enough, this is the thing we’re talking about: the expanding scope of intellectual property. The digitization of entertainment and the difficulties that industry faces from file-sharing are merely the tip of the iceberg. By now it’s old news that, thanks to technology, things that were previously easier to limit and control are now easy to copy and share. But also and more importantly, many things which previously were “free” are now going to get entangled in webs of patents, copyrights, trademarks, and so on. And now we are entering the phase where this will profoundly affect the lives of all of humanity, not just the world of computers and information.

Digital coffee – a trip down memory lane

Years ago (”Digital Coffee”, Nov. 1999), I tried to make the link between coffee and intellectual property, using a comparison of buying $1 of Starbucks stock versus $1 of coffee on the commodity markets. So let’s see where we are today with that hypothetical $1. As illustrated in the chart, invested in SBUX stock in 1993, it grew to $6 by 1999, and would be worth $15 in 2009. While the poor dollar invested in coffee itself, which had reached $1.30 in 1999, would continue to inch up, reaching $1.75 by 2009. The conclusion that, if you consider the chain of value that leads to a cup of coffee, “at the end of the chain it’s $100 a pound, while on the commodity markets it’s $1 a pound, and the grower probably gets $0.10″, has been exacerbated. The coffee farmer, despite doing the most difficult part, gets a shrinking share of the total value. Most of the value in the final product of coffee is really information; it’s in the distribution, and marketing of the coffee experience. That “information goods” part of coffee, which is intellectual property even if it’s not rocket science, is worth more and more while the physical commodity is worth relatively less and less. (That doesn’t happen with oil because there’s a finite supply). And it’s a huge market as I pointed out then, coffee is second only to oil among the world’s commodities in total value. Therefore the producers needed to figure out ways of get in on the information goods game.

Fortunately, awareness of this reality has increased dramatically in recent years. For example, a movie called “Black Gold ” brought some attention to the plight of coffee farmers in the global economy. The Ethiopian Intellectual Property Office engaged it in earnest, staked a claim in the digital coffee realm by trademarking some of the Ethiopian coffee names. Starbucks correctly identified this move as encroaching on their territory (the “information goods” side of coffee) and this caused a huge battle which was widely covered. With the help of organizations like Oxfam, the EIPO managed to move the battle to the court of public opinion. Thus Starbucks an extremely successful western corporation of whose brand “social responsibility” is a core part, whose customers are the very stereotype of the bleeding heart liberal, found itself in the position of the big bad exploiter of poor third world farmers. It was a strategy worthy of Sun Tzu’s Art of War: if you are a smaller, move the battle to a territory where your enemy’s superior firepower is worthless. Game over. Starbucks capitulated, and EIPO got not only the trademarks, but a promise from Starbucks to help the country in more ways than before. My hat goes off to EIPO and Oxfam for this.

Would you rather collect rent or charity?

But coffee is only one example. A dutch company called “Soil & Crop Improvement BV” is patenting a method of processing of teff flour. The invention results in a gluten-free flour, which helps people with Celiac disease. Celiac is a common genetic disorder, affecting people all over the world. For example in the United States, more than 2 million people have the disease. The disease makes the victim unable to eat gluten, a protein that is found in wheat, rye, and barley, which covers a pretty large fraction of the typical western diet. Thus gluten-free food has a huge market. Sounds like there might be a lot of money to be made from Teff!

So let’s see what this patented invention consists of. As far as I can tell, it has two main ideas. First, you wait a few weeks after harvest before grinding the teff, so that the “the amount of undigested sugars in the starch” is lower than it would if the grain was ground immediately. Second, you pass it through a sieve, so only the small grains go through. Pretty simple stuff. Which of course is good! Saving lives is great, and simple solutions that save lives are the best. Except the whole patenting thing… You see, there’s this thing called “prior art”. In the many centuries since Teff has been the staple in Ethiopia, surely someone had the idea of waiting a few weeks before grinding it and taking the finer grain! But those ideas now belong to a dutch company, because the Netherlands has the intellectual property infrastructure that Ethiopia doesn’t. The winner is determined not necessarily by an actual innovation but by things like having patent offices, and membership in the World Traded Organization. So if this works out and it turns out that 100 million Celiac disease sufferers will switch to a Teff-based diet, the bulk of the profits will flow to the dutch company, not the Ethiopian teff farmer. Sound familiar? SBUX redux. Except in this case it might even go further. It’s not “just” a marketing and distribution advantage which gives a larger slice of the total value, the patent owner can actually bloc the farmer entirely out of that market!

Now there’s nothing particularly evil about Soil & Crop nor is there about Starbucks. In fact, for what it’s worth, they both seem to try to be “socially responsible” corporations. But there’s a big difference between charity and obligation. Suppose you own a house and a tenant came to you and said: “let me take your house and in exchange, each month that I earn more than I spend, I promise to share some the excess to help your kids go to school, and buy you some gifts” You’d say: “Wow, thanks you are very generous Mr. Potential Tenant. But no thanks, here’s a lease, just sign here and pay me the rent.” Right? In other words, you would prefer to have a profitable business relationship with them, rather than accept their charity. So why, when it comes to multi-billion dollar markets for living products that are indigenous, why should it be considered OK that companies can own the brand, the patents, and all the associated information goods value, thus controlling 90% of the final value, while tossing the original owners a few crumbs of charity? Why is enough for them to make the profits and “give back” on a discretionary basis? Shouldn’t they pay rent instead of give charity? So perhaps the “digital coffee” conclusion didn’t go far enough. Now commodities are not just becoming information i.e. controlled by branding and marketing, they are becoming intellectual property, through copyrights and patents too. But who owns this property and who should own it?

Even the birds and the bees

This question affects more than just the potential export markets. The owners of the intellectual property can actually come and extract money even from people who were doing the same thing they’ve been doing before the patent ever existed! For example, in a famous case, some farmers in Canada are forbidden from growing crops that they use to grow — rapeseed (canola) — because they might accidentally mix patented seeds into their crops. Even if they don’t want to use the new seeds and try to avoid it, because birds and bees (and wind among other things) will accidentally mix seeds over large distances, the farmers will infringe on these patents that belong to Monsanto and have to stop…. even though they are only doing the same thing they did before the patent. They have effectively been check-mated out of their own traditional business.

You might think that could never happen in Africa right? The very idea of enforcing a patent against a farmer in rural Africa seems laughable. But think ahead. Intellectual property is a key condition to participating in World Trade Organization and the international community in general. Even China is being forced to do something about copyrights to please the WTO. Not being part of WTO is a huge handicap, and Ethiopia is trying hard to get in, like any country that wants to be part of the world economy. So at some point, it’s quite possible that Ethiopians could find themselves in the position of having to choose between accepting the established intellectual property system under which they are screwed, or rejecting the system at enormous costs i.e. going the pirate route.

Which brings us back to our Swedish pirates. Putting aside their guilt or innocence, they exist because a huge number of people feel locked out of the “information goods” and these people create an enormous black market for copyrighted movies, music, and software. And bittorrent, the protocol their service facilitates, just happens to be the most efficient current form of file sharing, so they are current poster children, the latest incarnation of Napster, in the on-going saga of intellectual property on the Internet. But it’s not just pirates. The world of property in information is a dangerously unstable one even among the big players. A long time ago, a researcher from IBM explained the world of corporate patents to me as follows. Patents are like nuclear weapons, they don’t want to use them but they have to have them because their opponents have them. They hold them as deterrents, they sign patent “treaties” where they agree not to sue each other and cross-license patents to each other. But sometimes they actually use these “nuclear weapons” i.e. they sue: vast sums of money are extorted, untold hours of effort are expended in futile wars, and companies are driven out of business, etc.

So if things like coffee and teff are going to become information goods, then what kind of world are we heading into? If you extrapolate from other areas where intellectual property dominates, namely software, digital entertainment, and pharmaceuticals, the current trends do not bode well for the vast majority of humanity. It’s a world where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, much faster than what has occurred with physical commodities over the last couple of centuries. Those who are locked out of the web of intellectual property ownership will be like non-nuclear powers in a nuclear world, except the super-powers won’t be a stable pair, it will be a multi-polar unstable world, with constant threats and actual disastrous fallouts… and of course pirates! Imagine a world of patented food, and the inevitable black market like narcotics today but much much bigger.

But are we really heading toward this dystopian future of bio-patent wielding powerhouses dominating the world, alternately fighting each other and enslaving the rest? Well of course not necessarily. Fortunately, some farsighted people are already on the case some scientists are calling for a bio-patent ban for example. One of them in fact is an Ethiopian. These are scientists, so of course they are not against scientific advancements and their practical use; they are protesting some forms of ownership. Maybe there will be open-source bio-technology and pharmaceuticals, that are as successful and significant as open source software, and all the key processes and ideas of future life will be freely or fairly available to the whole world. But maybe not. What if that open-source nirvana fails to occur? Banning bio-patents may not be the right answer anyway. Until the right balance emerges in this “informationalization” of everything, all sides have to arm themselves to the teeth for intellectual property warfare lest they be marginalized and reduced to piracy. We are probably already in the early stages of a mad scramble, just like the scramble for African raw materials during the industrial revolution/colonial era. Now it’s not grabbing land with timber and gold but about claiming as much as possible of the DNA of plants and animals, patenting potentially lucrative variations of traditional processes… In the case of Ethiopia for example, it’s not just coffee and teff, it’s also (to take random example, I’m sure there are many more) flaxseed, an important source of Omega-3 acids. Hey has anyone filed a patent for a process to create a convenient form of Telba?

US Food Aid Contributing to Africa’s Hunger?

Above: A quarter century after the 1984 famine, which left
millions of Ethiopians destitute, familiar faces still linger as
the country remains dependent on food aid. (Sven Torfinn )

ABC News
By DANA HUGHES
NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct. 29, 2009
Drought-stricken Ethiopia is pleading for food aid again to stave off starvation, but some critics are complaining that the policies of the country’s most generous donor, the United States, is exacerbating the cycle of starvation. A hungry Ethiopia gets 70 percent of its aid from the U.S., but according to a new report by the aid organization Oxfam International, that help comes at a cost. U.S. law requires that food aid money be spent on food grown in the U.S., at least half of it must be packed in the U.S. and most of it must be transported in U.S. ships. The Oxfam report, “Band Aids and Beyond,” claims that is far more expensive and time consuming than buying food in the region. Read More.

Video: Famine eclipses Ethiopia’s beauty and rich history (Worldfocus)

The Huffington Post:
25th anniversary of Ethiopia famine – Has anything changed since?
My colleague Marc Cohen, a senior researcher at Oxfam America, reflects on the 25th anniversary since the devastating famine of 1984 in Ethiopia. He was in the country a few months ago: Twenty-five years ago, Michael Buerk’s dramatic BBC footage from Korem, in northern Ethiopia, brought a devastating famine to the world’s attention. Tens of thousands of people had sought refuge from war and drought in the town. Every 20 minutes, a camp resident died from hunger and related diseases. Buerk called Korem “the closest thing to hell on earth.” Read the whole story: The Huffington Post.

Video: The 1984 Ethiopian famine (BBC)

Related from Tadias archives: We are the World

Above: To raise money for the 1984-1985 famine in Ethiopia,
45 popular singers collaborated to record the charity single
“We Are the World”, co-written by Michael Jackson and
Lionel Richie. They included Harry Belafonte, Stevie Wonder,
Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, The Pointer Sisters, Kenny Rogers,
Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, Paul Simon, Tina Turner and
many more. (Photo: United Support of Artists for Africa)

The Song Michael Jackson Co-wrote to Benefit Ethiopia
Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff
Published: Monday, June 28, 2009
New York (Tadias) – The painfully wrenching images of hungry children, which invaded living rooms around the world in the mid 80′s, prompted Bob Geldof and Midge Ure to organize the 1985 Live Aid concert and ‘raise funds for famine relief in Ethiopia’. The multi-nation event, which showcased some of the biggest names in the music industry, included Michael Jackson, who co-wrote the project’s signature song “We Are the World” along with Lionel Richie. The song was recorded on the night of January 28, 1985, following the American Music Awards. Read more.

Video: We Are The World

25th anniversary of Ethiopia famine – Has anything changed since?

Above: A quarter century after the painfully wrenching images of hungry children invaded living rooms around the world, familiar faces still linger as millions of Ethiopians remain dependent on food aid. (Sven Torfinn Photography)

The Huffington Post:

My colleague Marc Cohen, a senior researcher at Oxfam America, reflects on the 25th anniversary since the devastating famine of 1984 in Ethiopia. He was in the country a few months ago: Twenty-five years ago, Michael Buerk’s dramatic BBC footage from Korem, in northern Ethiopia, brought a devastating famine to the world’s attention. Tens of thousands of people had sought refuge from war and drought in the town. Every 20 minutes, a camp resident died from hunger and related diseases. Buerk called Korem “the closest thing to hell on earth.”

Read the story at The Huffington Post.

Video: The 1984 Ethiopian famine (BBC)


Related:
The Song Michael Jackson Co-wrote to Benefit Ethiopia.

Watch:

Yared Tekabe’s Groundbreaking Research in Heart Disease

Dr. Yared Tekabe runs studies in cardiovascular disease detection and prevention at Columbia University. (Photo by Kidane Mariam for Tadias Magazine)

Tadias Magazine
By Tseday Alehegn

Published: Tuesday, March 17, 2009.

New York (TADIAS) – Dr. Yared Tekabe enjoys doing most of his reflections while sitting anonymously with his laptop at cafés in Harlem. When he’s not there, Tekabe is busy running studies in cardiovascular disease detection and prevention at his lab in Columbia University’s William Black building in upper Manhattan. Last November, Tekabe’s groundbreaking work on non-invasive atherosclerosis detection and molecular imaging was published in the American Heart Association’s journal, Circulation, along with an editorial citing its clinical implications.

Dr Tekabe’s success has helped his laboratory, headed by Dr Lynne Johnson, to receive another $1.6 million four-year grant from the National Institute of Health to continue his research, and Tekabe hopes that in a few years time his work can help heart disease prevention efforts and early detection of atherosclerosis in humans.

“What is atherosclerosis in layman terms?” I ask him, trying hard to correctly pronounce this tongue twister. He breaks it down to its linguistic roots. “Atherosclerosis comes from the Greek roots athere which means gruel, and skleros which means hardness or hardening,” he explains. Further research in Wiki reveals that atherosclerosis is a condition affecting our arterial blood vessels, which transport blood from the heart to the rest of the body. Atherosclerosis is the chronic condition in which inflammation of the walls of our blood vessels lead to hardening of the arteries.

“Atherosclerosis is the underlying cause of cardiovascular disease (CVD),” Tekabe says. “The result is progressive closing of the blood vessels by fat and plaque deposits, which block and further restrict blood flow. In more serious cases it may also lead to clots in the aorta (main artery coming out of the heart) or carotids (arteries supplying blood to the brain) that may dislodge and travel to other parts of the body such as the brain, causing stroke. If the clot is in the leg, for example, it can lead to gangrene. Deposits of fat and inflammatory cells that build up in the walls of the coronary arteries (supplying blood to the heart muscle) can rupture leading to blood clots. Such clots in an artery that supplies blood to the heart muscle will suddenly close the artery and deprive the heart muscle of oxygen causing a heart attack. In the case of very sudden closure of an artery a clot can cause sudden cardiac death.”

“It’s the Tim Russert story,” Tekabe says, providing a recent example of what undetected levels of plaque formation in our bodies can lead to. EverydayHealth.com, an online consumer health portal, had described the famed former MSNBC ‘Meet the Press’ host’s sudden heart attack as being caused by a plaque rupture in a coronary artery. Russert had previously been diagnosed with heart disease, but his atherosclerosis was asymptomatic. He had not experienced the common signs of chest pain and other heart attack symptoms to warn him or his doctors of his true condition. The undetected inflammation in his vessels and the subsequent rupture of plaque led to his sudden heart attack and untimely death. This is not uncommon, however. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease “is the leading cause of death for both women and men in the United States, and women account for 51% of the total heart disease deaths.” There is even more grim news: United States data for 2004 has revealed that the first physical symptom of heart disease was heart attack and sudden death for about 65% of men and 47% of women with CVD.

The risk factors for atherosclerosis are well known and Tekabe runs through the list with me: “diabetes, obesity, stress, smoking, high blood pressure, family history of CVD, and diet” he says. “But of all the factors that I have mentioned, I would say diet is the most important one to change,” he adds. Food items such as red meat, butter, whole milk, cheese, ice cream, egg yolk, and those containing trans fat all put us at higher risk for plaque formation. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish such as salmon, herring and trout instead of red meat, as well as eating food that is steamed, boiled or baked instead of fried. It is better to use corn, canola, or olive oil instead of butter, and to eat more fiber (fruit, vegetables, and whole grain). Notwithstanding that March is deemed National Nutrition Month by the American Heart Association, changing our diet is largely emphasized in CVD prevention. We should also be exercising at least 30 minutes each day.

“Early non-invasive detection of the presence of inflammation and plaque could save lives,” Tekabe points out. “But the problem is two-fold: those who suffer from atherosclerosis do not display warning signs until it’s too late, and for doctors, a non-invasive method of detecting atherosclerosis is by and large not a possibility.” Research by Tekabe and others may soon change the way doctors can detect atherosclerosis.

Using molecular imaging techniques that were previously popular in cancer biology research, Tekabe and his colleagues have discovered non-invasive methods of detecting RAGE, a receptor first discovered in 1992 and thought to have causative implications in a host of chronic diseases ranging from diabetes to arthritis. Tekabe, collaborating with Dr Ann Marie Schmidt who has shown that RAGE receptors play a key role in atherosclerotic inflammatory response, notes that these receptors can be detected non-invasively in mice that have been fed a high-fat, high cholesterol diet.

“In the past, although we knew about the RAGE receptor, especially in the study of diabetes, we were not able to detect it without performing an autopsy of the lab mice. Clearly, in the case of humans it would be pointless if we said that we detected atherosclerosis in the patient after the patient had died,” Tekabe explains. “Therefore, it was imperative that our research showed a more non-invasive method, detecting RAGE receptors and locations of inflammation while the subject was still alive. The first step would be to test it on mice, which we have, and then perhaps on larger animals such as pigs, so that this research could be successfully translated to help non-invasively detect atherosclerosis in its early stages in human beings.”

Left Image: Atherosclerotic aorta: The image is from a mouse fed a Western type of fat diet (high-fat, high cholesterol diet) for 34 weeks. It shows complete blockage of the aorta and the branches that supply the brain. The plaque is made up of fat and inflammatory cells.
Right Image: Relatively normal aorta: This is from 6 weeks old mouse fed a normal diet.

Tekabe’s recently published research showing detection of RAGE receptors responsible for arterial inflammation was funded by a grant from the American Society of Nuclear Cardiology as well as from an American Heart Association Heritage Foundation award.

The November Circulation editorial entitled “Feeling the RAGE in the Atherosclerotic Vessel Wall” highlights the significance of Tekabe et al’s findings and the necessity for early detection of atherosclerosis. “This is an exciting development that adds an important marker of atherosclerotic disease that can now be assessed non-invasively,” write Drs. Zahi Fayad and Esad Vucic. “Tekabe et al demonstrate, for the first time, the noninvasive specific detection of RAGE in the vessel wall.” They concur with Tekabe that “noninvasive detection of RAGE in the vessel wall could help define its role in plaque rupture, which has potentially important clinical implications.”

Tekabe came to Boston in 1990 and subsequently completed his Bachelor’s degree in Biotechnology and his Masters and PhD in Biomedical Sciences with a focus on CVD and drug development. His academic choices have inevitably led him to his career as a scientist, but he has personal reasons for choosing this path as well.

“I was born in Dire Dawa, Ethiopia. I have 1 brother and 8 sisters, and my parents had no formal education. But my father always encouraged me to seek higher education. While I was completing my studies I witnessed my beloved father suffer from Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) and he underwent triple bypass surgery. He passed away in 2004, and I promised myself that I would step up to the challenge of finding a way to prevent heart disease” Tekabe says in a somber and determined tone. “Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the developed world, and I am motivated by that challenge, but this research is also deeply personal.”

Tekabe hopes that his research will be applicable to other areas where RAGE receptors have been hypothesized to play a central role. Circulation editors who follow Tekabe’s work have noted that “in addition to its role in atherosclerosis and the development of vascular complications in diabetes, RAGE possesses wider implications in a variety of diseases, such as arthritis, cancer, liver disease, neurodegenerative disease, and sepsis, which underscores the importance of the ability of its noninvasive detection.” Tekabe, as part of Dr Ann Marie Schmidt’s team, has already filed U.S. and international patents and has plans to jump-start a drug development arm of the pharmaceutical industry in Ethiopia. “I’m looking for interested sponsors in Ethiopia who can see the potential of this research and its global implications,” he states.

Now that Forbes has apprised us of the billionaire status of an Ethiopian-born businessman, we hope this news may peak his interest in helping to start scientific research initiatives in Ethiopia.
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Our Beef with Kitfo: Are Ethiopians in America Subscribing to the Super Sizing of Food?

Photo by Ayda Girma for Tadias

Tadias Magazine
By Dr. Asqual Getaneh & Dr. Adam Waksor

Updated: Saturday, August 23, 2008

New York (TADIAS) – Every few years a new fad diet, which promises to slim, beautify, energize and prolong life hits the media and ends up on the shelves and kitchen tables of America. It is a staggering 30 billion dollar market. Paradoxically, Americans continue to expand and suffer significant obesity related morbidities. Ethiopians in the U.S. usually ridicule the folly of these diets. We also do not heed the numerous sound directives from the U.S. Surgeon General on healthy diet, tobacco cessation and exercise. Celebrating one of the most complex cuisines in the world, most of us continue to indulge in the sinfully rich kitfo, downing it with a stiff Black Label as often and as much as possible and with humor. Some of us finish off with a well-branded cigarette.

True, a few of us might choose the heart friendly red wines; and humor does contribute to healthy arteries. The effect, even so, is an ever growing mid-riff, inflamed and clogged arteries and the associated health problems. Anecdotal information shows that the prevalence of diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are on the rise both among Ethiopians living in the West and the affluent urbanized population in Ethiopia. These conditions, individually and together with tobacco, are the leading causes of heart attacks and strokes. Among Ethiopians in the U.S., a coronary artery bypass surgery after an unexpected heart attack in a man in his 40’s is no longer a rare occurrence. In fact he is considered lucky to have survived.

Ethiopians living in the West (or the urbanized in Ethiopia), in general, have undergone a nutrition transition. In content, our diet has changed from a relatively diversified menu, which included legumes (shiro), vegetables (like gomen) and high fiber grains (teff) to an almost exclusively meat-centered (kitfo/tibs), refined carbohydrates (rice/wheat based injera) and animal fat diet (kibae). In quantity, we have subscribed to the American super sizing of food, or in Ethiopian restaurant parlance – a “combination plate”. Large quantities of rich food, which would have been eaten over several days in Ethiopia are consumed as a meal. Thanks to the many Ethiopian eateries and tireless family members who pack luggages full of food, there is easy access to a cheap, familiar and delectable meal every day. In addition, we have an appetite for fatty and spicy cooking. The preference for fat might be biological and not unique to Ethiopians. The key however is our conscious contribution to a sustained fat consumption, which in itself leads to changes in our brain. As a result, our appetite cues and energy expenditure are negatively influenced. In a nutshell fat begets fat through a complex neurological and chemical regulation.

Not only are we consuming high fat and large portions of food, but also our lifestyle has not kept up with our energy consumption. Unless expended, the body stores all excess energy from dietary fat, alcohol or vegetables as body fat for use in time of caloric need. In affluent societies there is no time of need if it is not artificially introduced, for example as aerobic exercises. A high-energy diet requires a consciously planned parallel program of energy expenditure. Admittedly, having an exercise plan and adhering to it is difficult in the era of long-commutes, parking garages, office jobs and the rush to attain the trappings of life in the West. Our relaxation and socialization also revolves around elaborate meat-centered feasts and alcohol and not enough around physical activity.

Besides its many direct toxic effects on brain, blood and liver cells, drinking moderate to heavy alcohol limits one’s exercise capacity. It increases the risk of dehydration through its diuretic effect and reduces endurance and blood sugar levels limiting the duration of physical activity. Heavy alcohol use also contributes to weight gain, which in turn limits exercise capacity. However, it has been shown that low to moderate consumption of alcohol has beneficial effects on energy intake and on lipid (cholesterol) profile.

We admit that Kitfo and alcohol together do not have as much devastating effect as cigarette smoking on health. Sporting Marlboro Light, Camel or Winston reeks havoc on the human body from skin changes, to cancers to heart attacks and strokes. If one were to do only one thing today to benefit his health, smoking cessation will be the most important step towards better health. However, we will leave this main health hazard for a later issue.

So, our beef with kitfo is its frequent and excessive use, its high content of butter, its frequent coupling with heavy alcohol and smoking in many cases, and the lack of any mitigating lifestyle habits such as exercising, a balanced diversified diet and normal weight.

A few tips…

*Keep kitfo and other heavy fat meals as delicacies, for special occasions.

*Keep your midriff slim without plastic surgery. Plastic surgery does not have beneficial effect on health as loss of abdominal fat. Know your waist to hip circumference ratio and keep at goal. This ratio should be less than 0.8 for women and less than one for men.

*Know your body mass index (BMI) and keep at goal: BMI is calculated as follows. Weight in kilogram divided by height in meters squared. A BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 refl ects normal weight. Between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight. Over 30 is in the obese range, which is associated with a significant risk for developing diabetes, high blood pressure and their complications, arthritis, liver and gall bladder diseases.

*If the portion of meat is more than the size of your palm (3 ounces or 85 grams), it is too much. And, in general you should not have more than two of these a day.

*A gram of fat has 8 calories, a gram of protein and carbohydrates have 4 calories and a gram of alcohol has 7 calories (one teaspoon of butter has 5 grams of fat).

*If your plate does not contain more than one color, you are not getting adequate nutrition and are most likely consuming more calories than you need. Different colors in fruits and vegetables are a low caloric source of various vitamins and minerals.

*If you are having more than 5 drinks a week, your body is taking too much. More than two units for women and three units of alcohol a day for men are excessive.

*Cigarettes are passé and no longer chic or cool.

“The Wogesha Will See You” Traditional Ethiopian Medicine, Then and Now

Traditional medicine has been defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “the sum total of all knowledge and practices, whether explicable or not, used in the diagnosis, prevention and elimination of physical, mental or social imbalances and relying exclusively on practical experience and observation handed down from generation to generation, whether verbally or in writing.” This system of health care is also known as folk medicine, ethnomedicine, or indigenous medicine. In some countries, including the US, the terms complementary or alternative medicine are used interchangeably for traditional medicine.

It is generally accepted that traditional Ethiopian medicine is the outcome of long and dynamic interactions among African, Greek, Arabic, and Hebrew traditions. These interactions, combined with the variations in the country’s unique ecology and diverse ethnic groups, make the traditional medical system in Ethiopia very rich and complex. Records show that the existence of such a health care system can be traced back to the period prior to the 16th century. Although the expansion of modern medicine appears to influence some aspects of the traditional system, traditional Ethiopian medicine remains rooted in magico-religious beliefs and empirical knowledge from the natural environment.

An estimated 80% of the Ethiopian population relies on traditional medicine. Socio-cultural appeal, accessibility, affordability, and effectiveness against a number of health problems seem to foster its widespread use. Consistent with the increasing global interest in alternative medicine, the demand for traditional medical therapies in Ethiopia is on the rise. In 1986 over 6,000 practitioners were registered with the Ministry of Health. More recently, the Ethiopian Traditional Healers’ Association, which was established in 1987, reported a membership of 9,000 healers. A few experts estimate the number of traditional medicine practitioners, vendors, and collectors in the country at more than 80,000.

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