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Ethiopia: The gift of an ambulance

Thanks to a donation last year at the Meetings and Incentive Travel (M&IT) Magazine annual Industry Awards Gala Dinner, of which Save the Children has been a beneficiary for 23 years, we purchased and handed over an ambulance to the population of Sayint District this week.
Katy Webley handing over the keys for the ambulance, Sayint, Ethiopia

We will pay for all related costs, including a driver, for the first three months, then 50% for the next three months. Then the local government have agreed to ensure all funds are covered, partly by them and partly through a small contribution from government paid workers in the area. The ambulance really does provide a lifeline service to these communities – previously, those needing to get to hospital would have faced big difficulties travelling to Akista, 75km away, or Dessie, 190km away. The ambulance will now help 1,500 local women deliver their babies, and 25,000 people in the wider community.It’s hard to bring to life the noise, energy and atmosphere as we drove through the villages on the way to Sayint to hand over the ambulance. In village after village we were surrounded by children and villagers clapping their appreciation. They ran alongside the car waving, clapping and smiling and giggling when we smiled and waved back.

Running to keep up with the ambulance on the way to its handover ceremony in Sayint_Amhara region_ Ethiopia on 25.1.2011

The handover ceremony had been arranged and funded by the district administration, and I couldn’t believe just how many people came to greet us, and wave flags, dance and chant around the ambulance as it drove past – it brought home just how important this ambulance is for the local community and what a difference it will make. In every village, men carrying large sticks and rifles chanted and danced around the ambulance, and some men rode around on their beautifully decorated horses. Local priests with their colourfully embroidered umbrellas were also out in force – in fact pretty much every villager seemed to be excited to take part in this momentous day.

Villagers in Sayint District on the way to handover the ambulance_25.1.2011_Ethiopia

The ceremony was attended by a number of local officials from the Women Affairs office, the Labour and Social Affairs office, the Water Resource office, Food Security office and the Deputy Head of Health cabinet member for South Wollo district.

People crammed into the health centre’s front garden to watch and listen. Speeches were made, including a young girl who spoke about how she’d seen too many relatives die, but was so happy this will no longer happen thanks to the ambulance.

Ambulance handover ceremony in Sayint, Amhara Region, Ethiopia 25.1.2011

After the ceremony, some beautifully dressed women danced in front of the health centre to a song spreading the message about HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention. It certainly seems to have made an impact – or at least there are awareness messages and posters all over the place – from billboards to posters in healthcare centres – many funded by USAID.

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