Behind the Scenes of Healthcare in Emdibir: An Interview with Health Officer Sisay Deboch"
Updated: Mar 27
Engera USA works closely with the Ethiopian Catholic Eparchy of Emdibir to provide health care to communities in Gurage Zone and the South West Shewa zone. In this interview, we speak with Sisay Deboch, the Eparchy's Health Officer. The interview took place when he visited the Galeya Rogdha Clinic in South West Shewa Zone in Oromia Region.
Can you tell us about your role at the Eparchy?
My profession is public health expert. In this diocese, I work as a public health officer. In this diocese there are seven health centers and one hospital. The one we are in now (Galeya Rogdha) is a medium clinic, and I coordinate them all. The diocese works in two zones, the first is the Gurage zone and the one we are in right now is the South West Shewa zone. In the South West Shewa zone, in addition to this health center, we also have schools, a food security program, and other clinic-building projects. There is a clinic near Waliso City that is almost finished and is scheduled to open soon. Our health care facilities have been in operation for many years.
My main tasks are to monitor evaluation activities, strengthen capacity, and develop project proposals.
What inspired you to pursue a career in healthcare and how did you get started in this field?
I started working in a government office. I worked in that office for several years. I was working in that office when I noticed a job opening which was one step better than the job I was holding. I thought if I took it, not only would it be a good next step for me but my local community could also benefit from my work. So I started working here in 2012.
What are some of the most common health issues that you see in your community?
In this particular area, there is an outbreak of various diseases here, such as malaria and typhoid. And among young children, there are many intestinal parasites and malnutrition. The community here relies on seasonal crops most of the time, so the children suffer. Fortunately, we have donors who help provide medicine and food. In addition to the clinics, there are also schools, and we have a school feeding program and monitor the growth of the children. We support those who need food assistance after the screening. We help them get food in their schools.
What are some of the challenges you face and how do you overcome them?
One of the challenges in this area is that many members of the Gumuz community were without a house, so we built some houses specifically for them in collaboration with some donors. One of our biggest challenges is the lack of financial resources. Galeya Rogdha is a prime example of a lack of buildings because of a lack of funds. This is a remote area, and staff need adequate housing. A health worker needs a healthy home to serve the community effectively, but they have an unsuitable house. They have no water and no electricity. If these conditions were met, they could work much better and the community would be much better served.
How has the covid 19 pandemic affected your work, and what measures have you taken to adapt to the situation?
During covid 19 we tried to distribute preventative equipment to every health center. We distributed masks to everyone. We also distributed prevention infection materials. Aside from that, we made food donations to help the tough time pass. So that the staff members and the community are secure and no cross contamination happens. For this, to work we made mini projects and we addressed the situation quickly.
How has Engera's work impacted the community?
Engera is one of our biggest partners here and one of our biggest donors. Engera's presence has made significant changes in our health centers. They help us with running costs and assist us with maternal and child health care. We receive some money from patients through government-run community health insurance. However, it takes staff in the clinics to accept this insurance, and we don't have funds to pay these staff in the clinics, so it's not sustainable. The patients' funds aren't enough. This is why Engera's support is so important, because, without their support with operating costs, none of this would be possible.
What could you do with more funds?
For Galeya Rogdha, for example, we want to build more blocks. What we have isn’t enough. The rooms are very small. We need larger rooms for mothers and children and at the moment it is all in one room. The housing for staff is in ruins and has no blocks which is another issue. As soon as we have funds, we will build this block. Also, we need running water at this clinic. Having a running water source underground would make our work much easier. The weather here is very hot and as a result, cross-contamination is spread quickly from the patient to the health worker and vice versa. So without water, is hard to sustain the clinic. Electricity is another issue. Mothers come from far. They come at night time in the dark even when it is raining. So water and electricity are a big issue. In addition to these, we would install more fences and security. Finally, at this clinic, an ambulance would be hugely beneficial so we can respond to emergencies quickly or even refer patients to hospitals.