Experiencing Addis Ababa - historical monuments

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Flag of Ethiopia  ,
Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Last weekend we spent Friday evening with our preceptor Dr. Zelalem and her friend who is a pharmacist. We visited a local restaurant and were able to watch live Jazz music performed by muscicians from all over Africa. It was really enjoyable.

On Saturday, we decided to go on a day tour to see as much of Addis as possible in a short period of time. We visited Entoto Museum where we were able to visit Emperor Menelik's palace and see a panoramic view of the city. We also visited Holy Trinity Church which is said to contain holy water capable of curing HIV. There are people from all over the world that visit Addis to go to this particular church for a chance to cure their illness. We also visited the Ethnological Museum of Addis Ababa. This museum is found within Emperor Haile Selassie’s former palace and is surrounded by the current Addis Ababa University gardens. The reception hall hosts ethnographic items of more than 80 language groups. The last place we visited on this tour was Kechene women’s potters. This is a group of women who create clay dishes, ornaments, and decorations to support the women and children of this particular area. They have been in business for over 20 years and are very successful. Carissa and I went to town in this place, as the clay work was extraordinary. We don’t yet know how we are going to bring everything back home!

We spent the first two days of this week in the Pediatrics department in St. Paul’s hospital. There are many different areas to this large department including neonatal ICU, under fives and older children inpatients, and outpatients. There are no subspecialist Pediatricians in Ethiopia, and as a result, the pediatricians have their hands full. The most common cause of mortality in the pediatric population is pneumonia. In addition, there is a lot of malnutrition, and rickets (caused by Vitamin D deficiency) is not uncommon. Today we spent some time in the NICU. They have phototherapy here to treat jaundice similar to how it is treated back home.  As far as prematurity goes, most babies under the age of 32 weeks gestation do not survive following delivery. The rule is that they must be a minimum of 28 weeks gestational age to be admitted to the NICU. In Canada, the supportive care for premature infants is advanced and intensive care is recommended at 25 weeks. Even at 24 weeks the parents are able to make the decision as to whether or not they want to have intensive care administered.

This Thursday we will spend time in a Psychiatric Hospital in Addis, called Amanuel Hospital. This is the main Psychiatric Hospital in Ethiopia. Psychiatric illnesses are often misunderstood here, although progressive thinking has come under way over the last decade. It is said that patients are often mistreated by the guards at the hospital, which is very unfortunate. We have been told that there are 40-50 Psychiatrists for the 80 million people living in Ethiopia, which creates a problem for adequate treatment for mental illness. Certain Psychiatric conditions are more common here than back home as well. Catatonic Schizophrenia, which I have not seen back home, is the most common type of Schizophrenia. (In Edmonton, it is the paranoid type). In Catatonic Schizophrenia, patients are often unable to speak, move, or respond. These episodes can last for a month or longer. Although Catatonia is only identified as a symptom in the current classification systems, it is recognized as a disease entity in itself here in Ethiopia. This is because it is so common. The other day we had a patient who fell into a catatonic state while in hospital. He was unable to move any part of his body including his eyelids and he was completely unresponsive. We are interested to visit the Psychiatric Hospital here and to better understand the challenges that health care workers face in the treatment of mental illness here in Ethiopia.

On another unfortunate note, many people here still believe homosexuality to be considered a mental illness. Homosexuality is illegal here in Ethiopia and if a person is persecuted for this "crime", they must serve time in jail. We have talked to many people about their views on why homosexuality is wrong, and we have expressed our own views of why we believe it to be completely normal, speaking about our loved ones back home who are in same sex relationships. It seems that it will be a long time before it is finally, if ever accepted here. It seems that people are very set in their views on this topic.

Yesterday we went out for dinner at a restaurant called MK in the “rich” area of town called Bole. In the restaurants here, most people are wealthy locals or tourists. The restaurants are very Americanized and most do not serve traditional food. On our way home from the restaurant, traffic was slow. On most of the busy streets, when traffic slows to a hault, women with babies or young children lurk outside of the windows of cars hoping to gain a few birr. Because this happens so often, it is impossible to donate to every person that does this. On this particular occasion, we had a woman with a baby less than 1 year old. The taxi driver had his window rolled down so her and her baby peered their heads through the window and she asked us for birr. We apologized and said no, but she persisted. This went on for about a minute, when finally she said “please, just ten birr”, then the baby reached his hand in the car, looked directly at us and said “TEN BIRR!”. We were completely dumbfounded as at this age, he probably only speaks a word or two at best and he was able to articulate the English words “ten birr”. We quickly reached into our purses to grab out some birr to hand to the mother.

We have been doing a lot of souvenir shopping because the crafts here are quite amazing and different from other areas of Africa. The other day we decided to visit one of the government hospitals in Ethiopia, where a significant number of people within the population are plagued with leprosy. This is a disease caused by the bacteria, Mycobacterium Leprae. It affects the peripheral nerves and mucosa of the respiratory tract. If left untreated it causes permanent damage to the skin, nerves, and limbs. People become paralyzed and are often seen dragging themselves on the ground to get around. There is a specific area of this particular hospital that houses and treats people with Leprosy. To support their medical care, the patients create handy crafts and sell them in a tiny shop in the hospital. We went to this particular shop to purchase gifts. While there, we were able to see the artists hard at work. It was a really eye opening experience and we were happy to contribute to their cause.

Our time here in Ethiopia is coming to a close. We will likely write one more blog at the end of the week.

Hope everyone is well back home!

<3 Andrea and Carissa 
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Allan and Marie on

Were very proud of you girls the blogs are very interesting,we will miss the blogs but looking forward seeing you,we miss you very much,see you girls soon all our love and more al and marie

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