Seeking the support of Ex-Peace Corps who lived and worked in Ethiopia

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By Martha Mulugeta-Berihun ( on Saturday, May 16, 2009 - 1:31 pm: Edit Post

May 15th, 2009

Seeking the support of Ex-Peace Corps who lived and worked in Ethiopia

I stumbled across your website while looking for people interested in Ethiopia and who might like to get involved (in whatever capacity they see fit) in supporting a humanitarian project to provide health care for some of Ethiopia's most isolated and disadvantaged communities.

Ethiopia is a country of contradictions. On one hand, it is rich in history and culture - on the other, the majority of its people languish in poverty, without access to the very basic needs of life like clean water, food, shelter and, especially, health care.

Many rural areas of Ethiopia have no roads and 85% of Ethiopians are dependent on subsistence farming. Patients from remote areas only seek medical attention in extreme cases and often need to be carried for up to three or four days to reach a basic health centre. When they arrive, there is likely to be no equipment for tests, to help with diagnosis, or for treatment - even beds and trolleys tend to be in a poor state of repair and patients often must lie on the floor.

Women are frequently unable to leave their domestic duties to attend medical appointments, particularly if referral or follow-up appointments cannot be undertaken in one day, and reproductive health problems (such as pre-eclampsia and fistula) often receive no treatment until the problems become acute.

With this in mind my husband and I, Andrew Chadwick, both having worked for the largest UK charity in Ethiopia and frustrated at seeing the same suffering being played out again and again, set out to address one of the basic needs of some of the country's poorest and most isolated communities - access to health care. Our aim is to work with local people to re-equip and rehabilitate hospitals and health centres in the remote northern highlands. Now we are looking for people who might like to get involved in our project which will be particularly important for the poorest women and girls in Ethiopia.

By collecting redundant hospital equipment from the UK and sending it out to Ethiopia, our project will improve access to health care for women without them having to travel such long distances, leading to more appointments being kept and an earlier resolution to medical problems. Local access to effective health care will lead to improvements in maternal-child health and the reduced risk of women having to carry out arduous tasks while unwell. They will be able to receive preventative treatment and seek advice for themselves and their families when local health facilities are better equipped to handle such cases.

To deliver this project we have set up a UK registered charity which we call International Development Partnerships (IDP). As one of the founders, and an Ethiopian, not only was I a user of the health service, but my nine years with Save the Children (UK), prior to moving to the UK in 1993, has given me the opportunity to see what the rural people of Ethiopia have to endure in not having any form of health care or, where basic services do exist, being woefully inadequate due to a lack of essential equipment and supplies.

After a very lengthy process which took nearly two years, IDP has now been granted charity status in Ethiopia and we have signed a project agreement with the Ethiopian Government. As well as acquiring charity status in Ethiopia, we have also secured the following support for our project:

We have agreed with the owners a five-year lease on a 7,300 sq. ft. warehouse in west London at a peppercorn rent. This warehouse, with an annual rental value in excess of $120,000 will form our main base for the collection of medical equipment prior to shipment,
Aid to Hospitals Worldwide, a specialist UK charity, will donate hospital equipment,
GreenWorks Consulting, a UK charity specialising in Environmental Consultancy and re-cycling, will donate office furniture and equipment which we will use to re-equip health centres and schools.

One of the conditions of our operational agreement with the Ethiopian government is to establish an office in the capital, Addis Abeba within three months of signing the project agreement, from where we are required to run our projects in the country. The value of medical equipment we will send out to Ethiopia will be $400,000 per year, while the running costs for a three-year project amount to $95,000 in the first year, reducing to $60,000 in subsequent years. This pays for sea freight and customs clearance, office rent and utilities, staff salaries, vehicle for the use of the project etc.

Despite our concerted effort in sending out grant applications to grant making foundations and other funding organisations, so far we have not been able to attract financial support to pay for the cost of collecting and shipping out the equipment. Donor organisations respond by saying they only support well established charities and they will consider our application for support once we are able to attract donations from other, private sources.

We now face a dilemma, unless we are able to raise funds and start sending out hospital equipment soon, the government of Ethiopia will revoke our charity registration and cancel the project agreement. We also find ourselves at a disadvantage as the culture of giving to charities seems to be more influenced by celebrity patronage or publicity value, rather than by the worthiness of their cause or the effectiveness of the project.

I am now writing to bring our work to the attention of those who would not want to see hard work going to waste especially to those who lived and worked in Ethiopia such as yourselves who I believe understand the challenges faced by the majority of the people and might be able to help us in rescuing a worthwhile charitable project from closure.

Perhaps the only way we can raise the necessary funds to attract other donations is through a fund raising event but we have neither the necessary resources nor the contacts to run such an event. We would very much appreciate it if you were able to support our work by becoming a friend of IDP and organise a fundraising event to launch our charity by lending your skills or your influence.

Having been involved with humanitarian aid for over 20 years, I understand the complexity of the relationships between donors and charities. However I am still unable to understand why the majority of people prefer to give to charities which are either well established or have celebrity patrons.

Although I do not want to take away support from other good causes, there are charities - those with a fresh approach and minimal overheads - which deserve to be given a chance. The size of a charity or its length of service is not always a guarantee for success or cost effectiveness.

We are particularly in need of help in raising funds to deliver our project and I would be grateful if you would consider supporting our project to help some of the poorest people in Ethiopia.

Yours sincerely,

Martha Mulugeta-Berihun
International Development Partnerships

Telephone:+44 (0)20 7286 9756

UK Registered Charity No. 1061514
Ethiopia Registered Charity No. 3201

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