U.S. Ambassador To Ethiopia Pledges Continued Cooperation With Rotary
This is another in a series of reports from a Rotary expedition to Ethiopia to End Polio Now.
In a meeting today with about 30 visiting Rotarians from the United States and Canada, U.S. Ambassador Patricia M. Haslach thanked Rotarians for their service to Ethiopia and the world and pledged continued cooperation and support for Rotary’s PolioPlus initiative.
The Ambassador noted that while Ethiopia was declared polio free in 2008, imported cases, including one as recent as August of this year, remind us that the effort is vitally important.
The Ambassador also reviewed a host of other issues with the visitors and praised the Ethiopian people for their cooperation and preparation, noting that the Ethiopian armed forces are presently involved in five peace-keeping operations on the continent. She highlighted the progress the country has made in combating the spread of HIV/AIDS, noting that 50 percent of the people in the country with HIV/AIDS are now getting treatment.
Prior to visiting with the Ambassador, the group made a visit to the world renowned Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital founded by Catherine Hamlin (now 93) and her husband in 1974.
Catherine Hamlin visit with Rotarian Ezra Teshome.
The hospital treats women with obstetric fistulas that result primarily for inordinately long deliveries–labor lasting for days and often ending in the death of the baby. The pressure from the delivery causes tears in the vaginal wall and ruptures in the bowel and/or in the urethra, leaving sufferers incontinent.
Not understanding the cause or treatment, women suffering from the condition or ostracized and shunned. Frequently their husbands abandon them and take the children. The women are completely robbed of dignity and hope.
Into this desperate circumstance comes Catherine Hamlin, twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. The clinic, now 40 years old, is set on a beautiful campus with rose gardens and other flowers decorating every walkway. Never a hint of odor from the patients’ problems can be detected in the spotless facilities–one building was funded by Oprah Winfrey.
The hospital recently added a maternity ward. Women who have been treated and returned successfully to their former families require cesarean sections when delivering subsequent children. The procedures are performed free of charge–as are all of the other services at the clinic.
As we were about to leave the facility today, one of the visiting Rotarians pointed out a young girl and asked if she could be a patient. I protested that I hoped and prayed that she was the daughter of a patient.
He investigated and discovered that she was raped when she was nine years old and delivered a baby at age ten. Less than half the age of the average age of women at the hospital, this darling girl was in bright spirits. When I handed her a donated soccer ball, she lit up like a candle.
Today’s meetings also included lunch and dinner with local Rotarians, reminding me that they are the ones who are making the big sacrifices and doing the hard work here day in and day out in the fight to end polio. They deserve the real kudos for the success of the program here.
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