Scott Reichenbach, president of Hope Walks, recently visited Ethiopia. This is the third of three posts reflecting on what he saw there.
After visiting our partner clubfoot clinic in Aksum, we traveled about an hour outside of town on a rutted dirt road, up and down, over hill and valley, through dry river beds to a small, no-stoplight town. We’re here to visit a family whose child has been treated through the clubfoot clinic.
We walked a few hundred yards back to a stone compound. Behind the wall is the front yard, where two cows are tied up under a canopy that is covered with dried sorghum. Inside the one-room stone home, a mom sits on the bed with her almost two year old son, sound asleep behind her. Born with clubfoot, he is now walking free from disability on straight feet. Her three other children are somewhere outside, running around town.
We talked about life and having a child born with clubfoot in Ethiopia. She is happy now that his feet are straight. She had never seen clubfoot before, but her local health center referred her to the city for treatment at the same clinic we had just come from. This is exactly what we are working towards: local, early referrals. It is exciting to hear this is working and to see the results.
The son wakes up from his nap, and Dad came home from work. The older sister pulls out a charcoal stove and starts to make a fire. They roast some coffee beans, grind them, and serve us authentic Ethiopian coffee. Maybe it was the beans, maybe the roasting, maybe because it was fresh, or maybe it was the water, but it was the most amazing cup of coffee. We brought out some small food stuff to share; they offered us some local bread. Our photographer pulled out an instant camera, and they were amazed. Photos for everyone—individual instant photos, treasures they will keep. Smiles are everywhere.
It is all so good, right? But there are still so many challenges. We are about the kids with clubfoot, and the kids are showing up. We are also about the quality of care, and we are seeing that quality delivered. But we know there is more to be done.
We are only reaching 40% of the estimated annual clubfoot population here in Ethiopia. We want to continue to push for excellence and see all kids walking free from disability. Even more importantly, we want to share with them the hope of the gospel, the message of salvation in Christ, yet this is a place where the threat of persecution is real.
Families don’t have money to pay for the care that is needed—just getting to the clinic every week is a challenge for them, and having traveled those roads, I’ve had a taste of that experience. Government funding is scarce, particularly for these children born with clubfoot; in a country with millions of people, the government has bigger health issues than the 4,000 babies born here with clubfoot every year. But like most issues, if you ignore them, they don’t go away. They only compound the longer they are ignored.
This story isn’t unique to Ethiopia, either. It’s repeated in developing country after developing country. The solution is relatively simple; the goal is attainable. We know how to do this work effectively, affordably, and sustainably. We work to bring local governments and providers on board. We connect organizations that align in mission to the work on the ground. And we connect with people like you—everyday folks who see this need and are ready to stand with us in prayer, in voice, and often, in financial support.
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