Mekdes Tadesse, the mother of twins, has been working as an outpatient and stabilization center nurse at the Gedeo-Guji response for internally displaced people (IDPs) in Southern Ethiopia for the last two years, leaving her children in Hawassa City, 150 km north of the response site. Taking care of her 12-year-old twin children remotely while working with severely malnourished children and helping breastfeeding and pregnant women is a tough job. But, Mekdes does it with courage. She shares the pain and trauma of those in desperate situations and restores lost hopes.
Mekdes has been working with the displaced people since the onset of the crisis, which was a dreadful time. Every day hundreds of people, including young infants, pregnant women and small children would arrive.
“The IDP influx, compounded with the drought worsened the emergency situation as a growing number children under five years old were affected by malnutrition,” she says. "As a human, it’s really heartbreaking to see children languishing due to lack of food and malnutrition.”
As the number of new arrivals grew so did the pressure to meet their needs. “We have to leave camp early in the morning and return back after four o’clock. …always… every week," she says. But, although the work was physically exhausting, "We have never been wary of it,” Mekdes recalls.
After spending the weekdays caring for others, each Friday Mekdes leaves to Hawassa to visit her children. On Sunday afternoon, she returns. Despite the distance, Mekdes never fails to care for her own children as well as help those in need.
Despite the challenges she faces, when she sees the positive changes in the lives of the children and mothers, Mekdes's energy, courage and commitment are renewed. “Seeing children who were once in a dire situation have their health restored in a few days, gives me the utmost satisfaction. That is the driving force for me to work,” she concludes.
The Gedeo-Guji internal displacement camp is one of the most complicated crises in Ethiopia. More than 900,000 people have been displaced from their homes as a result of intercommunal conflict. They fled to neighboring areas seeking refuge where most settled in schools, training centers, stadiums and other public facilities with no food, clean water or medication.
In response to the crisis, World Vision has mobilized more than $46 million (USD) from its donors and partners. To date, 890,000 people (including 470,000 children) have benefited from our interventions.