Traditional medicine was common practice in Ethiopia and many countries in the globe but declined after the emergency of modern medicine. However, it has always remained a challenging alternative to modern medicine, and whenever modern health systems fail, traditional medicine takes its place replaces it.

Traditional medicine cannot be measured and quantified scientifically. Whether topical or ingestible, being gross and unrefined and the difficulty associated with exact dosing makes traditional medicine incomprehensible to modern physicians.

It’s not uncommon to see patient’s waiting operation for 3 years or 4 years in the main government hospitals Addis Ababa, this is because of overwhelming number of patients, due to poor functionality of hospitals in the periphery and poor capacity of the center itself , not to mention the availability of equipments & infrastructure. Nurses, laboratory technicians and physicians are all burned out and exhausted.

Financially there is a big problem; an Ethiopian physician earns only about 11.2%, when compared with what an equivalent Djiboutian, Kenyan or Ugandan physician earns. As a result, many physicians in this country are in one way or another on their way to leave this country, unless they’re hindered by age and/or some family and social conditions.

There are physicians, noble and talented Ethiopian doctors, who turned to driving taxis during night to support their families because the hospitals they worked for whole the day failed to support their basic needs.

Our nurses & laboratory technicians started infiltrating government administration and NGOs, our physicians, keep going out of this country in search of better life, our patients & poor farmers keep suffering and our government keep watching & ignoring.

Our hospitals turned to job waiting area where jobless people apply until they get better job that fulfil their basic needs, and the staff turnover is unacceptably high.

Patient cheating and in hospital crimes are increasing, even the most senior surgeon is not saved, that their smart phones are stolen on daily basis, while in operation theatre, doing surgery.

People go to hospitals when they get sick and get treatment, but when hospitals themselves get sick, every individual in it will get infected and become sick, including patients, and finally, the overall community and country will get sick. Nowadays, our hospitals need hospitalization!

Coming to medical training in Ethiopian, one of the worst in the world, with poor illustration and full of subjugation & insults to students, where an environment of fear, stress trepidation are common.  

When a system with hierarchies happens to be a victim of injustice, everybody in that system will torture his subordinates, the lowest in the hierarchy will carry on everything & remain most victims.

Protesting interns

The medical interns are not faring better also, as the lowest in the medical hierarchy, the interns couldn’t bear the torture, they just burst out, the problem is clear & mature question in mentality of every health professional. 

Thank you interns, you knocked the door, and we all started pushing. Injustice will end. 

Because of sickness of public hospitals and expensive private health service, the poor farmers now turned to traditional medicine as an alternative option, in search of better health.

There is so called “kangaroo hospitals” in rural villages, where the houses of entire villages are rented by traditional healers for hospitalization of their patients, only GOD knows what they are doing, areas in & around Dire Dawa were mentioned as example.

To your surprise it’s nowadays common to see government media participating in patient exploitation by advertising traditional healer day & night, this is common even in Addis Ababa.

I want to conclude my today’s writing with this case so that we can identify the gap.

Abdurrahman is a 27years old man, who came from a remote town in eastern Ethiopia called Degahmadaw, about 880km east of Addis Ababa, in Somali region. 

I met him in his hotel room where he lived 1+month in Addis Ababa, he is now in his 3rd day after operation for chronic otitis media & perforated tympanic membrane, he told me he came after 25years of bilateral, pussy ear discharge and finally hearing impairment.

“This disease started when I was at age of 2 years. I was young my parents brought me to hospitals in Jigjiga of about 250km, they told us we have to go to Addis Ababa but my family couldn’t afford to take me to Addis” he told me.

“I later come to hospitals in Jigjiga, Harar and Dire dawa in more than 7 occasions, every time they were telling me to go to Addis, but how could I go to Addis Ababa? 

“I don’t have money, I don’t know the language, and I don’t know Addis Ababa, I don’t have relatives in Addis,” he said. 

“I did whatever I could, I travelled more than 10 consecutive days on foot to reach better traditional healer, I sold every sheep & expensive I had, to get my hearing back, but today, Alhamdulillah I have one of my ears fixed for 21,000 ETB, now I can hear,”  Abdurrahman told me in crying facial expression.

“Now I came because, I get a telephone number of a federal parliament member elected from our Woreda and he gave me all information and guidance I needed,” he answered to my question of how he come to Addis.

Abdurrahman’s case is representative to health injustice in all corners of this country, all patients have right to get the service they need at least in nearest so called specialized hospital, the government role is really missing here.

Patient being operated in makeshift hospital, Moyale

Can all poor Ethiopian patient in HIMORA, MOYALE, ASSOSA and/or WARDER, like Abdurrahman, be able financially to come to Addis Ababa and pay 21,000brr? For a medical procedure that take less than 15 minutes.

And nowadays we are talking about no job for physicians!

last week, I met a friend of mine Dr Ismail Dodan, a fresh, dedicated and energetic, new ENT specialist from Turkey, he is currently visiting Ethiopia, I think he could do much in eastern Ethiopia to fill the ENT gap, but unless something is done, the current wind will take him, and poor patient like Abdurrahman will miss the last chance they had.

It has been mentioned that,”number of Ethiopian physicians working in a single state in USA are more than all Ethiopian physicians in home country combined”. I doubt the validity but  at least it tells us something. 

Dr Ahmed Abdulahi (MD), Internal medicine Resident, Haramaya University,

Can be reached at: dhagaxmadaw25@hotmail.com