Empowering Communities to Combat Disease in Ethiopia: Fatuma’s Story - GOAL Global Skip to content

Empowering Communities to Combat Disease in Ethiopia: Fatuma’s Story


April 16, 2024 • 2 min read

Before a peace deal was struck in Northern Ethiopia, armed conflict was uprooting the lives of thousands of families like Fatuma's. Fatuma is 33 years old and the mother of seven young children. She was pregnant when conflict erupted in her village, and alongside 2,000 other households, Fatuma fled to an IDP camp in nearby Dirma. But shortly after Fatuma and her children arrived, she began to feel ill.

Displaced communities vulnerable to illness

Displaced individuals, particularly children, are highly vulnerable to infectious diseases. They often live in cramped, overcrowded conditions, with limited access to nutritious food, clean water, sanitation services, or adequate medical care. When children and adult IDPs become malnourished, their weakened bodies are often unable to fight the virus, leaving them susceptible to medical complications or death. To help displaced communities become more resilient, GOAL Ethiopia is empowering communities to combat disease.

Fatuma had a fever, a runny nose, eye redness, and a rash. The IDPs began to isolate themselves to prevent the disease from spreading any further, but it was already too late. Within one week, three children in Dirma IDP camp tragically passed away. As the IDPs began to panic, mobile health teams from GOAL Ethiopia were alerted to the situation and jumped into action.

Supporting local health systems

When displaced populations move into an area, local healthcare systems can become overwhelmed by the increased demand for services – especially when the newly arrived IDPs present complex medical needs. GOAL supports local district officials in Ethiopia who do not have the capacity to support displaced families in need, using funding from the OCHA Ethiopia Humanitarian Fund.

The District Health Office requested GOAL’s support in identifying the disease, managing treatment, and establishing the necessary committees to control the epidemic. Upon arrival, GOAL teams met with local community leaders, clinicians, and health office representatives to develop a plan for managing the outbreak.

GOAL staff conducted house-to-house visits to identify cases, provide treatment for patients, and collect clinical information. They identified 48 patients displaying symptoms of measles, including 12 critically ill people. Fatuma was among them, pregnant with her seventh child. Samples were collected and sent to a laboratory for testing, where it was confirmed that Fatuma and the other IDPs were suffering from measles.

Empowering Communities to Combat Disease

Fatuma received life-saving treatment from GOAL medical teams, who also taught her about disease prevention and control, emphasising the importance and availability of immunisation, especially for children. GOAL also conducted an awareness campaign within Dirma IDP camp, empowering the community by teaching them how to identify and report cases of measles, while mitigating the spread of the highly infectious disease.

Local officials thanked GOAL for their support and timely response to the outbreak. Three months later, an end to the epidemic was officially declared, and Fatuma, who made a full recovery, gave birth to a beautiful and healthy baby boy.

Learn more about GOAL’s work in Ethiopia.