Sunday, 18 March 2012

17th March 2012

Another hectic week has passed and over a hundred pregnant women have been screened for obstetric risks. The usual mal presentations, twins, women who have had over 4 pregnancies (at times this rises to 7 or 8), and those with previous stillbirths have all been given advice about where it would be safe to deliver their baby. Interestingly, having previously seen very few women with high blood pressure and symptoms that suggest pre-eclampsia, I came across 3 women this week who were certainly heading for trouble. All of them had blood pressures around 190/105, which was accompanied by oedematous feet and protein in the urine. One also had bilirubin in the urine, suggesting that something was going on with her liver. None of these women had any idea that they had a problem with their pregnancy, despite one woman having had 2 stillbirths in the past. The problem is that women simply will not have heard about the risks associated with pregnancy unless someone tells them. There is a move to try and provide health education in this area and to be honest, the messages do appear to be seeping through to some women. However, many remain uninformed of the risks and are therefore very surprised when I tell them that they need to be taken to hospital. They go though and I have certainly found that women are very receptive to the advice that they are given.
One of the clinics I went to was really out in the sticks and I had to do some very clever off-road driving in order to get there. The staff at the health centre, who came with me were suitably impressed with my driving skills and said that I was now eligible to drive anywhere in Ethiopia. Another very interesting clinic was held in a remote area where they are mining for gold. I’m not quite sure how much this benefits the villagers who live there but one bonus was that the mining team have 4x4 cars and will always take a pregnant women to hospital in the even of an emergency and she will not be charged for this. This is really an important service as there is no other way to get to hospital other than to walk for about 6 hours.

 The long and dusty roads to health centres
The faranji visit always creates a source of amusement

The woman that was pregnant with twins (see 11th March) has now delivered a health boy and girl (1.7Kg and 1.9Kg). she had a caesarean section as one was breech and the other transverse but all went very well. Since I was going back to Ganji on the day she was ready to leave hospital – 4 days after the CS – I took both her, her husband and the twins back with me. This meant that she didn’t have to catch the bus home and also that she didn’t have to walk the 3 hours from the bus stop to her house, something that would be a little painful after a CS. Mind you, it’s what most women have to do but if you can make it easier for some of them then it’s a bonus. I’m going to visit her in a few weeks time to give her a copy of the photo I took. She was really keen to have this as she said that she wanted these children to know the story of the Faranji who came to Ganji and how she helped them in so many ways. They were a really lovely couple and so very appreciative of the care that they had received.

1 hour old twins from Ganji

A happy ending for the twins and their parents who are now back home

The faranji returned to Ganji

Having been out and about so much now, I am beginning to feel like one of the locals. Despite the distances that I travel, I now recognise many of the people in the villages and we exchanges waves as I drive through each day. I don’t know exactly what they think about me but they’re very welcoming and it’s nice to see a familiar face in the morning. Actually, it’s nice to be able to see anything as I am driving along the roads – the dust/sand is really very thick now as it hasn’t rained for so long and I feel terribly guilty as I look in the mirror at the plumes of dust that fill the air following the car. What must it be like for people to be constantly covered from head to toe in dust? How can they ever keep things clean? I see people washing their clothes in the river and then hanging them on the dusty bushes to dry and gather more dust. The rainy season is apparently on its way, although for the past month now, everyone tells me that the rain comes in 2 months time.

The 'car park' outside Ganji Health Centre

I don’t really go to the hospital very much now as I tend top spend most of my time in the community health centres and health posts. I did, however, pop in last week to see various people and could help but notice the all too familiar brown cardboard box that sat on the floor outside the labour room. I must have been staring at it for a little too long as one of the nurses looked at me with a smile and nodded to confirm what I had suspected. ‘The young girl with the ruptured uterus?’ I asked. ‘Hmmm’ she muttered, looking towards the box and then back to me. It feels quite bizarre sometimes to be standing in the corridor having these conversations but word gets out about the tragedies here. Jeremy had told me about 2 young girls, both of who had ruptured their uterus. Since labour will have been going on for some 2 or 3 days before the uterus finally slits open, the babies don’t survive. Thankfully, the mothers seem to be pretty tough and many of them do make it to the hospital in time to have the uterus sewn up, possibly allowing just enough time for it to heal before they are pregnant with their next baby. Hopefully, they will automatically come to the hospital for the delivery next time.

Baby Rabina; sadly his mother died from sepsis shortly after childbirth

I have joined a group Oromifa lesson now as I have got to the stage where I need to be able to have a little more communication with the people I work with and the women that I see in the clinics. So far, this is going well, although I don’t find it a particularly easy language to master. I don’t suppose it will be of much use in the future either but it would still be nice to learn a bit more. My next lesson is on Tuesday so I will do some homework over the weekend.

 I will be out and about in the community over the next week, although I have no idea exactly where this will be. I am bound to be somewhere remote. It’s bound to be very dusty and numerous people are bound to ask me for a lift in the car, clearly wanting to avoid the arduous walk to the next village. My priority is always to take the pregnant women and since I generally need to take one or two back with me I reserve any spare seats for them. Interestingly, despite there appearing to be very little in the way of dairy products here, my Ethiopian passengers always smell faintly of milky, buttery vomit.

Jaba 5 months and very happy

Showing a keen interest in toys

Note the England football outfit

When I came home one evening, a toad was happily sitting on the door step. No idea where he came from but he was gone in the morning - probably wise, since I imagine he would have ended up as dinner for someone........


  1. I completely and utterly adore the picture of that happy family. They are beaming from ear to ear. So much happiness, so much relief in their eyes yet a tinge of shyness too. Wonderful picture. No wonder she wants it!

    Can I ask you a question? Do birth and death records exist over there? And if yes since when and what would be the nearest thing to our Register Office where I can write to? I have a very personal quest as my great grand mother was an Amarhi and I have always wanted to find out more. All I have is her name and the place and date of birth of my grand mother... Hopeful?

  2. Hi Nat
    Glad you liked the picture - they are such a lovely couple and I'm really looking forward to going back to see them.
    In reference to your question about births and deaths etc; There doesn't seem to be any system that records births and deaths. I'm told that you can get a birth certificate if you ask for one but the large majority of people don't bother. I suspect that it costs money and so why would they worry about it? People do, however, have identity cards, although I am not sure where the infoormation regarding these is stored. Most governemtn offices are moving towards computerised records - particularly immigration department - but I suspect that there will be little 'official' information about your grandparents.
    What does appear to be a good source of information is that which comes from the villagers themselves. Whenever you talk to people in the villages, they always know people/families that lived there before. Don't forget, people don't move around much and so if you know the village they lived in, you are likely to be able to find someone who knew them. In addition, the name of the father always becomes the surname of the child so this is helpful information.
    Not sure if this all helps, but hope so......

  3. Hi Karen
    After reading your blog, I googled the place yesterday on Google Maps and unbelievably it turns out it is only less than 200 kms from Gimbi, also in Oromia. What's the likehood of that.... The town/village in question is Dembi Dollo, west of Gimbi.

    I have another question, one that has been bugging me for years : what is this historical Greek connection with Ethiopia? I read somewhere in your blog about the Greek bar you guys go to sometimes.

    You see, this (possibly) wealthy woman married a Greek, an adventurer who made his fortune in Ethiopia hunting tigers (so goes the story handed down my family) and in the end owned fruit plantations. A few too many kids, of which my grand ma (born 1917) who was educated in some primary school run by American nuns in the 20's. I have no idea what religious group they belonged to. My grand ma changed religion a couple of times during her lifetime but always drank Greek coffee!

    Their names were Weisario Walatesario Dinghil (her) and Pandeli Nittis(him). My grand ma was called Elena Nitti, most probably Italian version of her Greek name (Eleni Nittis?). She lived in Ethiopia from birth to about 1938 and then again in Addis in the late 50's. Not sure there is a chance to still find people who have the "family" knowledge, it's such a long time ago and so many coups and people displaced since!

    I have a very complex family history as she ended up marrying an Italian during the Mussolini campaign in the late 30's (hence the Italian name she had later in life). I have been doing my family tree for years but this side of the family has always remained a big confused mystery! Just starting to make sense of it after a lot of reading and putting 2 and 2 together.

    So what you say is that if one has the money, they may well have been able to get a birth certificate? I think they had money even in those days, the question is did records exist back then? I knew about IDs being in existence, I have seen a couple dating 1956-1960.

    The other thing I would grateful for (if you can help me out!) is what "Dinghil" means in (possibly) Amarhic. Not sure if you have access to local knowledge or a even an Amarhic dictionary! Nothing of the sort here in Surrey... I strongly suspect this is a clue to her family origin...

    Keep writing your blog, I am one of your avid reader!


    1. Yes, there is a family that goes by the name Nitis in Dembi Dollo. The founder (the first Nitis in Dembi Dollo) was Pandelis Nitis. He married an Oromo woman and had many children like Kyriakos, Leonidas, Costas, Mihalis, Elisavet, Afroditi, Efrosini and probably some others. Leonidas and Mihalis are still living in Dembi-Dollo right now.

      There was an Oromo patriot who fought against the Italian occupation and lost his life as a result whose name was Oliqa Dinghil. Dinghil is a very rare name. It is probable that there is a relation here.

      It is difficult to find any birth certificates etc for that period. The only source you can depend on is local knowledge.

  4. Hi Nat
    Very interesting to hear about your family here and would you believe it, Dembi Dollo is a place that many of the Americans here at the hospital visit. I beleive that the hospital has a clinic there. I will make some further enquiries and get back to you about this. Indeed, we are likely to go to Dembi Dollo as people say that it's worth a visit. Also, whilst we were visiting a hospital in Ayra, we met up with a group of 6 or 7 Americans who were looking at starting a fistula operation service up there so I need to look at my notes to see who these people were (I think I have their emails).
    I will also ask about the Greek connection here - you're right, we go to the Greek club a lot as it is opposite the hotel we stay in in Addis but I haven't really thought about why there is this strong link. Interesting and I will find out more.
    My guess is that your grandparents were in some way linked to the Seventh Day Adventist church, which has a very strong American following out here. The hospital compund that we live in is run by this group and I believe that there is a strong connection to others in Dembi Dollo. I shall ask around.
    I have my Oromifa lesson tonight and so will ask about the word 'Dinghil'. Most names have some meaning to them so I think I should be able to find out something. I'll also ask around about the names of your grandparents - although there are many people in Ethiopia, it's actually quite a close network of people.
    All very interesting.
    I'm relly glad that you like the blog - it's lovely to know that people read it and find it interesting.

  5. Hi Karen
    This is such a small world after all!...Who would have thought that by replying to that ad asking for clothes and gathering a few shirts and shoes I would be writing this today. Having said that, anything to do with Ethiopia has always been close to my heart...all the stories that one hears in childhood form the mind and spirit I suppose ;0)
    I am so chuffed you might be going to Dembi Dollo!

    I have a few pictures (jpg) of the people and the place back then. However, not sure they would be of any use or even how to get them to you.... Nat

  6. Dear Karen and Jeremy,hope you are alright there.I am reading your blogs regularly.You are cordially invited to attend our daughter shikha's wedding on 3rd June 2012 taking place at Parklands,Qundon Hall Essex,I need your postal address so I can send you r invite x Sarla.

  7. Hi Sarla
    All well here, thanks. Thank you for the invite to your daughter's wedding. We won't be back in June I'm afraid though. Our address here is Gimbie Hospital, PO Box 228, Gimbie, K02, West Wollega, Ethiopia.

    By the way Nat, I am still asking around about your family. One thing I did find out was that the word 'Dinghil' means Virgin.
    If you want to let me have your email address, I can keep in contact that way - I'll remove it from the blog as soon as I pick it up.

  8. Hi nat I know is too late but I just read this and I know about the family you were asking about.