ADDIS ABABA – A clinic in southern Ethiopia run by the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary has been cited by UNICEF for its success in saving children dying of starvation, victims of what is now described as a full-fledged famine.
Since 24 April, the sisters at Bushulo Major Health Center have begun a controlled feeding program, conducted by the clinic’s medical personnel, that treats starvation as a disease. In addition to providing nutrition, this program, which requires the involvement of each child’s mother, treats the effects of starvation on the body’s organs – heart, liver and kidneys.
“Only 2.35 percent of the children admitted – previously considered hopeless cases – have died,” said Christian Brother Vincent Pelletier, CNEWA’s Regional Director for Ethiopia, who provides regular support to the center.
“According to Sister Isabel Arbide, F.M.M., a pediatrician at Bushulo, anywhere between 20 to 50 percent of the children treated at other centers have died of starvation.”
Bushulo Major Health Center, a 75-bed general hospital located some five hours by car south of Addis Ababa near the town of Awasa, could at first only care for a limited number of children and their mothers. A large rubber tent erected next to the facility, however, has enabled the center’s medical staff to treat more. Since the beginning of the program, 170 children have been treated, 51 have been discharged.
“The children arrive in their mother’s arms, ribbons of shredded cloth hang from their emaciated limbs.
“When these children leave the center,” Brother Vincent continued, “they leave considerably healthier. Mothers are smiling, grateful for their child’s life and the sheets, blankets and clothes provided by the sisters.
“Saving lives is the norm at Bushulo Major Health Center.”