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Notes from the Field

A drought threatens the already fragile foundations of many of Ethiopia's most vulnerable families. With five mobile units and therapeutic ready-to-use pediatric nutritional supplements and vitamins, African Services Committee Ethiopia is preparing to help the poorest of the poor survive the looming famine. With three of our five clinics (Zeway, Kombolcha and Mekele) located within the most drought-stricken areas, your continued support is critical. Please click here and donate to African Services Ethiopia today.

Spotlight on ASC Ethiopia

Traveling hundreds of miles from African Services Ethiopia headquarters and HIV/ TB testing and integrated care clinic in Addis Ababa to our clinics located in Zeway and Mekele, ASC's co-executive director Kim Nichols, and her mom, Ann, recently spent a very busy two weeks visiting three of our clinics in Ethiopia.

These annual trips provide an opportunity to witness first hand our clinics' higher levels of service, providing diagnostics, state of the art laboratory monitoring, and treatment for patients with HIV and TB, as well as supporting patients coming to these clinics with family planning and reproductive care, supplemental nutrition, and microlending for small business development, which has helped some of the most destitute of HIV affected households.

This trip also brought into focus additional services ASC is in an ideal position to provide, in large part to combat harsh new realities facing ASC clients, who comprise the most vulnerable children and families in the country. 

"Cervical cancer screening would be enormously relevant for ASC Ethiopia because of the huge risk of cervical cancer among poor women in Ethiopia - especially commercial sex workers and HIV positive women," said Dr. Fitsum Kibret, supervising physician at ASC Ethiopia's Henry van Ameringen Health and Community Development Center in Addis Ababa. ASC's Zeway and Mekele clinics have also started rapid testing and treatment for malaria.
 
African Services operates five HIV testing and integrated care clinics, in five regions of Ethiopia, providing more than 20,000 children, women, and men with HIV and TB testing and treatment each year, nutrition for more than 7,000 children adn pregnant , reproductive health for more than 6,000 women and girls, new shoes for nearly 18,000 children (improving school attendance and helping to prevent the spread of intestinal parasites), and income-generating support for nearly 100 families.
 

After two days at ASC's Addis Ababa Shola clinic, ASC Founder Asfaha Hadera, Kim and Ann spent a half day driving south to our clinic is Zeway where they met with a beneficiary of ASC's sheep-fattening micro-lending project, pictured above, who has tripled the number of sheep since beginning this PEPFAR grant-supported program. Selected women receive training in the care and importance of vaccinating and providing their new animals with a protein-rich diet. The initiative has helped many women like her profit from their sheep and achieve financial independence. 

"She's been able to send her three children to school because now she has money for school fees and supplies. She also says her health has improved because she has more to eat - as do her kids," Kim said.

"Her children are also getting nutritional support from ASC and she gets her ART drugs, care and HIV monitoring tests from ASC."

In the Fall of 2010, in collaboration with Castel Winery and BGI, African Services expanded to the southern region of Ethiopia with the Blavier Health and Community Development Center, in Zeway. In addition to micro-lending projects, the clinic provides community outreach and HIV prevention education; counseling and testing for HIV/AIDS; CD4 testing; vitamin and nutritional supplement distribution. Click here to learn more about our Zeway clinic.     

They also visited women in Mekele who participated in an ASC partnership with the French Embassy, which trained more than 100 commercial sex workers in traditional and modern hair styling. The training enabled participants to leave behind work in the sex industry by turning income-generating skills into sustainable sources of income. Commercial sex workers are regular clients who come to our clinics for free condoms, to participate in peer support discussions, as well as for care and support services for themselves and their children.

The ASC Health and Community Development Center, based in Mekele, was established in March 2007. Mekele is ASC's northernmost clinic, based in the Tigray Region, Asfaha's hometown. This clinic is based on the outskirts of Mekele, which is quickly becoming a principal economic and education center in Ethiopia. Services provided include community outreach and HIV prevention education; counseling and testing for HIV/AIDS; CD4 testing; vitamin and nutritional supplement distribution; micro lending for people living with HIV, and children's shoe distribution, and malaria and hepatitis B testing.

"Every other hospital or clinic in Mekele charges for their services - African Services Committee is free," said ASC Mekele's Site Coordinator, Abraham Gebrehiwot.

The travelers wrapped up their time in Ethiopia where it began, visiting ASC Ethiopia headquarters and the Henry van Ameringen Health and Community Development Center, located in the Shola Market in Addis Ababa, which was the first location established upon ASC's return to Ethiopia in September 2003. Located in the largest open-air market in Addis, this clinic provides free services to more than 6,000 of the most vulnerable people in this community, each year.

"We were the first ones to start free HIV testing and counseling in 2003," said Asfaha.

Some equipment and supplies are direly needed, such as a new generator, which provides clinics with much-needed power during frequent electrical outages in Addis Ababa. There is also a nationwide shortage of HIV test kits. Thanks to a recommendation from the Ethiopian Ministry of Health Regional Labs, Becton Dickinson was repairing one of the CD4 units at our Zeway clinic at the time of this visit. All five ASC Ethiopia clinics conduct these tests free of charge to clients and to a number of NGOs, clinics and hospitals.   

Visits to Ethiopia are not complete without a stop atop Entoto Mountain, home to members of ASC's Positive Kids program. "Every time I go back I follow up and see how everyone is doing," said Kim.

The program has served more than 40 HIV positive children who enrolled in our Pediatric HIV/AIDS case management program more than a decade ago. The program helped these children and their families, who live geographically isolated from the capital and far from most public health interventions, to access HIV and TB testing, treatment and care, supplemented by nutritional support, shoe distribution, and income generating projects.

"ASC's income generating programs on Entoto Mountain really show that access to a little capital can be the only thing standing between someone being successful or not. And once they have capital they don't seem to fail," Kim said.

Many of the original Positive Kids are approaching their teens and have grown up with dreams of attending secondary school, but funding is short.

"Now is the time to invest further: A donation of as little as a $1000 could pay for their entire secondary school fees, which would give them a really good shot at getting into university. We're talking about a dozen children, average age around 10. It would be so amazing."

-- Kim Nichols. Click here to donate to ASC Ethiopia and select Positive Kids Education Fund to help make their academic dreams a reality.

Whether it is to support our mobilization to help the most vulnerable families survive the severe drought, provide free HIV and TB testing, treatment and care, or nutritional support, education support or income generating projects to the poorest of the poor - please click here to donate today. We rely on your support and hope that you will continue to remember ASC in your giving.

 

SmartyPants Vitamins staffers recently joined African Services Committee partner Vitamin Angels on a trip to visit ASC's health clinics in Ethiopia‬. We are so grateful to Vitamin Angels and SmartyPants for all the amazing work they do to help provide life-changing nutrients to those who need them most.

Click here to read more about their trip and take a look at these spectacular photos, courtesy of Vitamin Angels.

In this photo, ASC distributes multi-vitamins and mineral supplements — thanks to generous donations by Vitamin Angels — to children and pregnant and lactating mothers. Our clinics are providing more than 20,000 children, women, and men with HIV and TB testing and treatment each year, nutrition for more than 7,000 (thanks in large part to Vitamin Angels' generous donations!), reproductive health for over 6,000, new shoes for nearly 18,000 (improving school attendance and helping to prevent the spread of intestinal parasites), and income generating support for nearly 100 families.