The construction of the Bahir Dar Rehabilitation Center and update of activities in Ethiopia

Ethiopia is on the verge of a new era in the care and treatment of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) in the Amhara Region. Under the leadership of VVAF Country Representative Gebremedhin Bekele and with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) through the Leahy War Victims Fund, VVAF is building a new rehabilitation center in the regional capital of Bahir Dar under the auspices of the Omega Initiative. The Bahir Dar Rehabilitation Center will bring a full range of prosthetic and orthotic services to this large and under-served region of Ethiopia. VVAF has received additional funding for the construction of the Bahir Dar Rehabilitation Center from Grapes for Humanity through the Primum Familiae Vini event.

VVAF received the land for the rehabilitation center from the Amhara Bureau of Labor and Social Affairs (BOLSA). The donation of the site was approved, all of the relevant paperwork was signed and in late December, the bid for construction was awarded to a local construction company. Work began immediately to finalize a contract and get the necessary approvals for electricity and water service.

The company began clearing the site even before the contract was signed. By the middle of January, the foundation work had begun and some of the concrete pillars had been poured. By the end of the month, the foundation work was finished and the work was proceeding ahead of schedule.

Near the end of March of this year, The Municipality of Bahir Dar and the Kobel Association of War Veterans donated a sizeable and much-needed parcel of land to the rehab center to house a septic tank and latrines. As of today, the construction continues to move rapidly and it is expected to be completed by June.

In addition to the construction of the new rehab center, there are other very interesting events taking place related to the new center in Bahir Dar. Mr. John Zeffer, a Certified Prosthetist/Orthotist, has accepted the job of Technical Director of the Bahir Dar Rehabilitation Center. He will begin work in Bahir Dar in May. John has worked overseas in Ethiopia and Cambodia as a teacher, mentor and clinical practitioner.

The work of VVAF physiotherapist Iris Papeleu at the Dessie Rehabilitation Center continues with the training of the Physio Assistants and Community Follow up (CFU) workers. The construction and set up of the gait training area and obstacle course as well as assistance with the development of sanitary facilities are all underway. All of these activities are part of VVAF's capacity building effort to expand the knowledge and experience of the staff of the Dessie Rehabilitation Center. Upon completion of the center in Bahir Dar, Iris will move there with two of the Physio Assistants.

VVAF has also entered into an agreement with the ICRC/Prosthetics Outreach Center workshop in Addis Ababa to train the bench workers for the new Bahir Dar Rehabilitation Center. VVAF also sponsored the orthopedic technician training of a young woman who is the only female orthopedic technician in Ethiopia. Her name is Yalemwork. She is currently completing an internship at an ICRC workshop. The bench workers will have the opportunity to work with Yalemwork under the supervision of an ICRC CPO and will move to Bahir Dar upon completion of the rehabilitation center.

William Brown, Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation (VVAF), (202) 483-9222

Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation (VVAF) is an international humanitarian organization that addresses the causes, conduct and consequences of war through programs of advocacy and service for victims of conflict around the world. Please visit our website at for more information.