How a Farmer’s Wife Builds a Hospital

Wubayehu was married when she was 12 years old. The first of six children followed shortly after. Her fate was sealed. “Prospects were very poor,” says the 40-year-old during our visit. But a microcredit turned the tide, and the diligent woman created the foundation for her own success and that of her children. Today her son manages a pharmacy and a small clinic near his home village.

“Behind my success is the support of my mother, and Menschen für Menschen is behind her,” says Abiy Worku, pharmacist in Merhabete.

Abiy Worku’s patients pay 25 Birr (the equivalent of approx. 1 Euro) to be examined in the small clinic the 28-year-old manages in Rema. “We have already examined seven patients this morning, but on market days, like today, there will certainly be more.” What do most people in the region complain about? “Pneumonia, malaria and typhus are the most common diagnoses,” the young man, who replaces the missing doctor so to say, states.

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Abiy opened the clinic only three months ago. Apart from his wife, one more nurse works in the clinic that closes an important gap in the village. It all started with a pharmacy Abiy opened last September: “I’m from a small village near Alem Ketama. There are, amongst others, a clinic and health centres there, so care is sufficient. That’s why I decided to open a pharmacy here in Rema. There had already been a small pharmacy and also municipal health workers, but, all in all, there was still a need for healthcare.”

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This need keeps the young man in the white coat very busy because even though his clinic has fixed opening hours, he and his employees actually offer 24 hour service. Abiy wants to expand on this and also offer childbirth services in the future. “For this I will enable my employee to receive additional training in Addis Ababa,” says Abiy about his plans for the future that don’t end there: “one day I want to build a hospital where it is needed.” Through his work this dream is within reach because, minus all costs, Abiy earns about 12,500 Birr (about 520 Euro) a month. “Behind my success is the support of my mother, and Menschen für Menschen is behind her,” concludes Abiy.

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At his mother’s home the long way Abiy had to go becomes apparent: Wubayehu Belew’s farm is near the capital Alem Ketama; an unfriendly looking bull keeps watch at the gate, but behind this hospitality and warmth reign. Wubayehu offers home-baked bread and freshly picked oranges from the garden. There is delicious coffee, also grown in the backyard. Unlike other houses in the area this one is made of stone, and even the children have their own little house.

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There is no doubt: here lives a progressive and successful family. “We have to thank Menschen für Menschen for all of this,” Wubayehu says enthusiastically. “I was married when I was 12 years old, so prospects were very poor. In the past we had to earn our living as farmers, but we only had one ox to plough the fields. Without the help of Menschen für Menschen we would have had a very hard life.” Right from the start of the organisation’s work in the region Wubayehu and her husband took part in many projects. The construction of a stone house was only one of them. When the credit programme for women was started in 1996 Wubayehu immediately jumped at the chance: “we bought a second ox and rented a small piece of land from the first credit. We had a better harvest right away, and could buy a donkey from the profits.”

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The family thus escaped poverty step by step and could provide their children with an education. “The cost for Abiy’s training as a pharmacist was about 400 Birr a month,” Wubayehu states proudly as she shows her son’s graduation photo. She also attaches great importance to the education of her other children: two pursued higher education, three are still at school.

“I have six children. I wish I had known about family planning earlier and had not been pregnant all the time. I could have supported my husband much better.”

“In the past I had to ask my husband for money for every little thing,” Wubayehu explains the former dependency. “My husband is very modest, but since I take part in the credit programme our relationship has improved. We decide everything together”; for example how to use the latest credit. Credit programmes from Menschen für Menschen are not just a one-off: as soon as a credit group has processed its first credit, it acts independently of the aid organisation.

Group members like Wubayehu decide on who receives the next credit and whether or not new members are admitted. The small groups are organised in credit societies. Wubayehu’s started out with 200 members. Almost 20 years later 125 women make their dreams, and those of their children, come true with the aid of the credit society – thereby contributing to the development of the region. Just like Wubayehu who helped her son open his pharmacy. Today the former farmer, who was married when she was 12 years old, has improved healthcare for an entire village.

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Wubayehu Belew and her husband Worku Baye live in the former project region Merhabete. Work in this project ended in 2009. At the beginning of 2015 the consultancy firm FAKT implemented an evalution to find out how sustainable the work of Menschen für Menschen is. Find the result of the study here >>

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