Project Mercy: Life in Ethiopia - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Project Mercy: Life in Ethiopia

YETEBON, Ethiopia (WXOW)  7,690 miles separate La Crosse, Wisconsin from the country of Ethiopia.

Despite the distance, Ethiopia and it's people are close to the hearts of a group here in the Coulee Region.

In March, 13 volunteers with the Gundersen Health System Global Partner's program traveled to Ethiopia to work at a clinic in a rural part of the country.

For two weeks, the team treated patients, preformed health screenings, and provided education in the Yetebon community.  Photographer Mark Bronson and Amy DuPont traveled with the team.

To understand why the team wanted to work in Ethiopia, you must understand the what it's like to live there. According to the World Health Organization, Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world. Access to resources like healthcare, education, and even clean water are limited.

With it's picturesque mountains and lush greens, Ethiopia is one of the most beautiful places in the world. But, for every landscape that takes your breath away, there are thousands of faces of the poor, the hungry, and the sick that make your heart ache.

Poverty is an epidemic. Most people are farmers, who according to the WHO, earn less than $300 a year.

Zondra Tyre has lived in rural Ethiopia for almost four years. The volunteer teacher says despite the work of local non-profits, adults and children are hungry.

"Wondering will your stomach will have food; wondering will I be hungry when I go to bed; wondering when will I not be hungry."

In addition to hunger, Ethiopians battle illness. Most families live in a tukul; small, round home with mud walls and a dirt floor. A home families share with their livestock. "The cattle and goats come in at night and they take up half the tukul. The family takes up the other half."

Viruses, bacteria, parasites, and even fungi are passed between humans and the animals they live with. A problem made worse by a lack of basic resources. A survey conducted by Project Mercy, a local charity, found nearly 78-percent of families lack access to clean drinking water. "We can go out and teach them all about hygiene that we want, but if they don't have access to clean water they are going to be experiencing the same problem over and over again." The same study found four out of five families live without proper sanitation.

The Ethiopian government and private groups are working together to expand access to healthcare, but there are not enough trained physicians to meet the need. The hospital in Yetebon serves about 70,000 people. It's staffed by just two doctors and one surgeon.

Access to medication is also scarce. The government gives each hospital a small ration of drugs each month. When they are gone, they're gone, and patients go without. Illnesses easily treated in the US like tuberculosis, diarrhea, and respiratory infections can be fatal.

Electricity or rather a lack of electricity is also a major issue in Ethiopia. The power goes out up to four times a day; sometimes for a few minutes other times for hours.

Despite all of the challenges the Ethiopian people have faith. They believe in the power of prayer and family. They believe tomorrow will be a better day.

"What makes the difference at the end of the day is how we're able to tackle and overcome those challenges."

Click here to learn more about the trip, enjoy exclusive web extras, and the outreach of Project Mercy.

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