November 14, 2016
Written by RTI International
This post originally appeared on ASTMH.
In September 2016, Ethiopia’s Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) began assessing the prevalence of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) in all refugee camps in Gambella and Beneshangul-Gumuz regional states. According to United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR), the significant majority of refugees in Beneshangul-Gumuz and Gambella regions are from the Republic of South Sudan. Less than 2% in Beneshangul-Gumuz are from Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Rwanda.
Recently, I spoke with two experts leading this effort, Biruck Kebede Negash, FMOH NTD team leader, and Scott McPherson, Chief of Party for the USAID-supported ENVISION Project, led by RTI International. We discussed health delivery structures in the camps, coordinated mapping, and Ethiopia’s efforts to ensure equitable and quality health services.
Biruck will be presenting on NTD mapping in Ethiopia’s refugee camps during the Terrorism, Conflict, Epidemics and Acts of God: The Impact of the Unpredictable on NTD Programs symposium – November 14 from 4 – 5:45PM.
Q. Can you give us a picture of the refugee camps in Gambella and Beneshangul-Gumuz?
I was struck by the variation between camps. The camps in Beneshangul-Gumuz are more settled, less transient, and some have been in place for more than 10 years. In some cases, it was difficult to tell them apart from any other community. Other camps, particularly those in Gambella, were created within the last two years and are facing a large influx of new arrivals, while transitioning from tents to more permanent housing. Having lived in South Sudan for a number of years, some communities were so similar to the communities where I worked back then that I felt nostalgic.
I was surprised to find that the camps are very well-organized with camp health leaders, zonal health leaders, block leaders, and community health workers. In many ways, it is a copy of the Ethiopian health extension worker program. I recognize the amazing work that the Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA) and UNHCR have done in accomplishing this, and I’m proud of the health access provided to our refugee guests. This has also made the entire NTD mapping process easier.