Narrowing the health care gap
Nick Krayacich (MD) was recently in Ethiopia leading a delegation of American and Canadian medical professionals and members of a Rotary Club to help build a hospital in Debre Birhan, Amhara Regional State. With a generous donation of an American who donated more than USD 500 thousand, the hospital is to be the first of its kind in the region. This follows other efforts in the region, including a school as a way to complement a one-time Ethiopian refugee now a proud (just retired) social worker from Windsor, Ontario, Canada named Beyene Abebe. Dr. Krayacich reflects with The Reporter’s Samuel Getachew on his impression of Ethiopia, the highlights of the efforts and why aid is still needed in the world. Excerpts:
The Reporter: You are a noted medical doctor from Canada and a longtime Rotarian. Tell me a bit about yourself?
Nick Krayacich (MD): I am a family doctor practicing in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. I graduated from the University of Toronto in 1989, and came back to my home town to practice in 1991. I am a past President of the Essex County Medical Society.
Share with me some of the highlights of the international work of the Rotary Club that you are a member of?
My Rotary Club of LaSalle Centennial has been involved with projects in India, Ghana, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Mexico. We have focused primarily on water and sanitation projects, as we believe this is the cornerstone and building block of poverty eradication. If there is no clean water, children are always sick, unable to attend school, thus limiting their economic prospects in their future. We also focus on literacy and education, providing books and libraries to various communities mentioned above in conjunction with our water projects.
How did the collaboration to work on a school and a hospital in Ethiopia come about?
The collaboration to work on the health centre and the school came about two-fold. Beyene Abebe was born and raised in Debre Birhan, and came to Canada 30 years ago. He always wanted to provide educational opportunities to the people and children in his village where none really existed before. He started by raising funds to build a grade school which he accomplished. He joined the Rotary Club of LaSalle Centennial two years later, and shared his dream of building a high school and health care center. Rotary sponsored a team to investigate in 2014 and indeed found that there was a need for a health care center.
Rotary District 6400 (Southwestern Ontario and Michigan), fund raised USD 565,000, much of which was donated by a very generous Rotarian named Chuck Howie and his wife Dee. Hence, the name of the center will be called the Howie Health Care Center. We also involved an extremely dedicated Rotarian from the Rotary Club of Addis Ababa Bole, and Past District Governor Teshome Kebede from Addis. The project could not have succeeded without his dedication and vital ongoing involvement.
The Rotary Club of LaSalle Centennial donated USD 10,000 to build the High School, as well as funding the desks at a cost of USD 6,500 through a District 6400 matching grant collaborating with the Rotary Clubs of Allen Park and Trenton, US.
One of the noted criticisms of foreign aid is that it is not sustainable or that it is a band-aid solution to a much larger problem. In looking at the project in Ethiopia, how do you envision it will be sustainable long after its international support runs out?
We asked if there was a need for medical training for the new center. The Wereda Health Bureau said there were specified five particular areas of focus. Rotary then sponsored a Vocational Training Team comprised of six health care professionals. Myself, as team leader and MD, Teresa Schuurman (RN), Family Planning, Gloria Milburn, a professor of nursing who specializes in Infection Control, Beverly Mihalko, a PhD in Epidemiology who specializes in Infectious Disease, Kim Levergood, a Social Worker with expertise in HIV/AIDS, and Rojin Golbaz, a Registered Dietician with expertise in Maternal and Child Nutrition.
We trained 30 health care professionals for seven days on the above mentioned areas of focus at the University of Axum. They will in turn, train the health care workers who will work at the new health center in Debre Birhan.
You have done volunteer work in South America, Asia and now Africa. You have seen how poverty affects citizens in your own backyard in Windsor. What were some of the poverty you saw in Ethiopia that stood out most for you?
The poverty issues that stood out for me in Ethiopia (outside of Addis Ababa) were the lack of clean, potable water, and sanitation facilities. Lack of resources and infrastructure also were quite evident, as well as the scarcity of good paying jobs.
Canada is a noted aid giving nation particularly to Ethiopia with a set of principles attached to it such as peacekeeping and one that advocates for the ideals of nation building around the world. There are skeptics who doubt if aid is an important way to make a contribution to countries like Ethiopia. Why do you think aid is vital in 2018?
Aid from Canada is vital not only this year, but in years to come as well. We live in a global society, and I believe we all have a responsibility to look after our brothers and sisters around the world. There is a Rotary saying that says “it is hard to make war with your friend” By providing aid, and making personal relationships, it is provides a peace building opportunity.
The ideas of Canada which you mentioned - peace keeping, aid giving, nation building is still very much important. Canada also believes strongly in diversity, equality for all, religious tolerance, and social justice. These are the building blocks of peace, and we all want our children and grandchildren to live and have a safe, peace filled world, to grow up in, and to protect it for future generations.