When Covid-19 took hold in Ethiopia in early April Nigat WeldeHawariat (42), a nurse for over 20 years, made the decision that she wanted to be on the front-line helping patients suffering from the virus.
Nigat was transferred to take up the position of Director of Nursing at the new Millennium Covid Centre established by the Ministry of Health in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa to treat the growing number of patients infected with the virus.
As of the middle of July, Ethiopia has recorded over 8,800 cases of Covid-19 with more than 160 deaths. However cases are increasing, with a 10% rise in the past month. To date the Millennium Covid Centre has treated over 1,000 patients infected with Covid-19. 400 have been discharged and more than 500 are still receiving treatment.
The important work of the Centre would not be possible without the dedication and commitment of its 500 staff, including Nigat who has been joined by her 20-year-year-old daughter, Beemnet Melaku, who is now working as a volunteer in the Covid medical facility.
Nigat, who is a PHD Fellow, says as a nurse she is inspired by being able to help people, something she describes as a blessing. “I can’t sit and watch as people are suffering,” she adds. “I love my profession and am very happy to be working here with Covid-19 patients. For me the joy is when patients are discharged, and seeing staff protected. That makes me smile. I want us all to hold hands together and come out of here as heroes by defeating the virus.”
She is proud of her daughter, Beemnet (20), who is “kind and caring” and who cannot pass someone on the street without helping them. “When she came to me and said she wanted to volunteer at the Centre I was worried and asked her was she sure. She said yes. She is doing lots of jobs, everything from lifting beds and mattresses, to keeping the hospital library stocked with books for patients and helping in the office.”
“She also talks to the (Covid) patients and tries to calm them down and support them psychologically. I tell her to be careful. She is doing great and I am so proud of her and thank God for giving me her. She is a great girl.”
With funding from Irish Aid, GOAL delivered PPE materials to the Ministry of Health in Ethiopia this week including, 675 facial shields, 2,725 disposable gowns, 2,781 boxes of gloves and 550 face masks for staff in the Millennium Covid Centre. In addition, GOAL distributed 58,000 Medical Masks (PIECE) and 5,563 boxes of gloves for frontline GOAL staff and government health workers in five regions.
At a ceremony to hand over the PPE materials this week Dr Ismael Shemsedin, Director at the Millennium Covid Centre, said: “There are over 1,000 patients and 500 medical workers working here supporting them 24/7. We have 40 ICU beds and 100 step down beds and the rest of the beds are moderate cases. When our 500 staff go inside and treat the Covid patients we have a responsibility to protect them from the infection.”
“These PPE materials (donated by GOAL) will protect our staff. But also the support shows us that we are not alone in fighting this pandemic. This will boost our moral and give us more confidence and let us know we are not alone. Our partners are joining hands with us to fight Covid-19 together.”
Sister Helen Teklu, Head Nurse at the Millennium Covid-19 Centre, said: “These materials mean we can be safe and to support our Covid-19 patients without fear. Without this equipment we will be one of the patients.”
During the certificate award ceremony organised by the Ministry of Health and the Millennium Covid Centre, Dr Liya Tadesse, Ethiopia’s Health Minister, said combatting Covid-19 has been challenging from the confirmation of the first case.
“When we were trying to convert this building into a (Covid) hospital, we had different challenges. However, we did it in two months. To make this happen each and everyone involved played a vital role.”
She added thanking all our partners, GOAL and Irish Aid for the donation of the PPE equipment: “This support shows us how we can do this together. Today we are not only thanking you, we want to show everyone that we have hope. I would like to say thank you on behalf of the patients, frontline workers, and the Ministry of Health. We need more support and your cooperation because we are
Dinkneh Asfaw, GOAL Country Director for Ethiopia, said: “During this period of uncertainty around Covid-19, GOAL have been prioritizing people’s health (staff and partners), business continuity, preparedness and response. We must support with all our means our staff and partners in carrying out prevention messaging and provide treatment safely.”
He said the Ministry of Health is undertaking all necessary measures to fight the pandemic. GOAL Ethiopia, with a funding from Irish Aid, is supporting staff in the Millennium Covid Centre but front-line workers including GOAL field staff in other regions in Ethiopia.
GOAL Ethiopia has to date reached over two million people across the country with Covid-19 messages through risk communication and community engagement and provision of Infection Prevention Measures.