"They asked, ‘why are you coughing so much? You must be a serious case. Soon you will probably not be with us anymore.’ ”
“Besides all the coughing I had a lot of pain on the right side of my ribs and I could not sleep in the night,” Farhan, a patient at the new tuberculosis (TB) center in Wardher, explains. “I was very scared and worrying for the future all the time. All the people in the villages were looking at me. They asked, ‘Why are you coughing so much? You must be a serious case. Soon you will probably not be with us anymore.’ ”
The town of Wardher is situated in the largest zone of the Somali Region of Ethiopia. Here, the arid landscape and an ongoing conflict make day-to-day life particularly difficult. The health center in Wardher, which is run by the Bureau of Health and supported by Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), has just opened a new TB facility, a 70-bed ward designed to offer patients a much improved environment in which to recover.
“In the new TB building there is a lot of space and because it is cool patients can sleep well and feel better during the treatment,” Farhan says. “Here, they gave me medication, a bed to sleep on, a blanket to keep me warm, a mosquito net to protect me and food to eat. For this I am very grateful. Now I don’t have pain anymore, I am not coughing and I have an appetite again.”
Farhan will stay in the TB center for roughly 2 months of intensive treatment and care, and will then be able to return home. He’ll have to continue taking his medication for four to six months, but he is already looking forward to resuming everyday life, earning a living by digging holes for water collection and construction.
Farhan realizes that in a place where treatment can be hard to come by, he is one of the lucky ones: “I don’t know what I would have done without this help. I can say that this TB care in Wardher was very important for me and is very important for the community.”
To date, MSF outreach teams have extended health care to five health posts in nearby villages and are referring TB patients from the new MSF/BoH health center in nearby Galadi. There remain, however, many people in the wider Wardher area who do not have access to such care. Although the Somali Region has the lowest reported TB prevalence rates in the country, this is likely due to under-reporting, and the real incidence of TB is suspected to be high. Unquestionably, increased assistance and unfettered access by medical providers is crucial if lives are to be saved.
MSF has a long experience of implementing TB projects in the Jijiga, Gode and Afder zones of the Somali region. At the national level, MSF is also involved in the technical working group for multi drug resistant TB (MDR-TB) that is led by the National TB Program, which developed “the National Guideline and Strategy for MDR-TB.”
MSF has worked in Wardher, Somali region, Ethiopia, since 2007. The organization supports the Ethiopian Government’s Bureau of Health facility in delivering primary health care, including inpatient and outpatient care, treatment of malnutrition, reproductive healthcare, treatment of tuberculosis and laboratory work. Elsewhere in the region, MSF provides medical care ranging from basic healthcare to nutritional care in Galadi, Bokh, East and West Imey, Degehabur, and in the transit camp in Dolo Ado and in the surrounding areas.