“Lord forgives me, but I’ve started to move to the other side of the road every time I hear that ‘Ene negn derash lewegene’ song,” says Bereket Teklay, who is weary of the frequent attempts on Addis’ streets to raise donations for sick people.
A song etched in the minds of Addis Ababa inhabitants has evolved from a goodwill endeavor into an unrestrained money lobbying scheme.
The validity of the requests however is still being debated.
“I’ve heard too many stories of scammers employing this method, but I’ve never approached them and inquired if it was for real since it felt too shameful. I know kidney illness persists and affects individuals, but I’m not sure if I should believe the fund raisers,” Bereket says.
Fundraisers for patients suffering from renal disease, cancer, and other chronic illnesses have grown common. In a society where medical funds aren’t readily available to those who can’t afford them, it appears that the next best thing is to beg for others to stand by them.
Ethiopia had 35 dialysis units as of September 2021, making it the most expensive dialysis service. Eleven units were in government-run hospitals that were financed by the federal or regional governments. The remaining are run for-profit private businesses.
Thirty-one units were located in hospitals or clinics, while the remaining four were standalone dialysis units.
The number of patients in a facility varies greatly.
The uneven distribution of the centers, combined with the high cost of receiving therapies, has made it difficult for patients to easily receive treatment, and they frequently rely on public donations to support their rehabilitation.
To assist financially challenged customers, certain dialysis centers, such as Mabd Dialysis Center, offer discounts to some of their patients. Other government-owned facilities also attempt to ameliorate the situation by providing affordable solutions for a limited time.
The recently opened dialysis center at Menelik II hospital is supposed to help and, to some extent, ameliorate the problem. The center now has roughly 30 machines, and when fully operating, it is expected to have about 90 machines, however the time range is unclear.
It is also intended to reduce the financial burden for many individuals who would otherwise be unable to afford kidney dialysis.
Because there are few well-established official or formal channels of gathering finances, individuals resort to offering donations directly to those who ask, while some question if such people truly need the funds.
Some even request authorization from the government to officially beg residents passing by on Addis’ roadways for assistance by renting a minibus. People who help those in need frequently imperil their own lives by stopping cars in the middle of the road to seek donations.
“To be honest, there is no transparency. I recall mobile phone movements for heart and kidney illnesses. What became of them? Did they genuinely assist those in need? asks Habtamu Negussie, a citizen who emphasizes the importance of transparency from fund collectors and fund receivers.
“I prefer to donate through organized channels, but I don’t hear much about them,” added Habtamu.
The Ethiopian Kidney Care, a non-profit organization, began to address the growing problem of kidney illness in the country.
The group provides in-service and monetary support to low-income patients and is directed by a board of six persons from varied backgrounds, including senior medical professionals, health sector managers, entrepreneurs, business owners, and nonprofit organization leaders.
In the private sector, a single dialysis session costs 2300 birr. Typically, the therapy is required more than once each week.
The annual cost of dialysis alone for a patient who undergoes it three times per week will exceed a quarter of a million birr, which is out of reach for most Ethiopian families.
Despite scammers exploiting the opportunity, legitimate patients’ needs go unfulfilled.
“Given the cost of treatment, I believe it is best to give to people that ask and let the odds play out. I’d like to assume that most of them aren’t fraudsters; for my own peace of mind, I choose to give them the benefit of the doubt,” Ruth Asegid remarked, opting to ignore accusations of scammers utilizing the tactic.