Ethiopia

Ethiopia: Kediga's story

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"The longstanding belief here is that malaria is transmitted by sharing cups or sleeping next to people suffering from malaria. And people try to treat it by drinking raw camel's milk, so we have a lot to do."

Kediga Gemur, 35, is a trained community health worker living in a remote village called Keda Gesso, 40 km away from Gewane town in north-eastern Ethiopia. She, along with thousands of others, has been badly affected by flooding.

"A sudden flash flood struck a vast area of land in Gewane and surrounding areas. Nine out of ten villages were affected. Four villages were particularly badly affected, included my own. The flood was so powerful."

"It wiped out everybody's belongings, including some animals. I managed to escape to safety with some fellow villagers. When the floods calmed down, we took our animals to go and shelter in the higher and drier areas," she explains.

"Now, a major concern for everyone is malaria, which always increases during the rainy season" she adds. As a community health worker, Kediga is educating her community members about the causes, treatment and how to prevent malaria.

Kediga, mother of two sons and one of the three wives of her husband, participated in a 10-day training course on malaria prevention designed for both literate and illiterate people. It is a simple text free, picture-based tool, which is tailored to the Afari people. This is particularly important as literacy rates in the reggion are as low as 7%.

She is now responsible for 30 households and uses every opportunity, such as coffee ceremonies and prayer gatherings, to spread the word.

Kediga is surprised and hugely proud of what she has achieved so far. Dessie Derib, a water and sanitation officer for AMREF expains: "It was a tough task to convince her husband to let her participate in the training. It is unthinkable for women to participate without the permission of her husband, but she persevered. Eventually, after three intense days Kediga was allowed to be one of the trainees."

Kediga has definitely noticed a shift in attitude since she has been working as a volunteer. "People are now going to the health centres, as soon as they identify the symptoms, and that is saving lives. But we have a long way to go. The floods have really increased malaria transmission in this area and we have to make sure that every family has a mosquito net."