«It’s my first time in Italy to meet Doctors with Africa CUAMM: it is a joy for me to be here! After three years of commitment in the field, in Addis Ababa, my homeland, it’s exciting to see up close where it all began, it pushes me to give everything I can to my community!».
Mary Ayele is a very young Ethiopian project manager, working in Addis Ababa on public health and the vaccination campaign against Covid-19. Her passage to Padua was an opportunity to meet and engage with the Italian team, through the satisfaction of collaborating with local colleagues, precious resources, the expression of an Africa that helps Africa.
This is also how the program “Mothers and children first. People and skills”, which places the training and growth of the skills of the operators, from health workers to administrative staff, at the centre of Doctors with Africa CUAMM’s activities. The real driving force for improving access and quality of care in countries with limited resources.
«I am happy to be here for my first visit to Italy. I am originally from Hawassa, a town south of Addis Ababa». Her visit to Cuamm is an opportunity to get to know more about her training, the Ethiopian education system, her first experiences of commitment, the difficult vaccination campaign and future prospects. A frank exchange, pointing out lights and shadows, progress and struggles, of a local human resource empowerment that Doctors with Africa supports and encourages.
«After graduating in public health, I took a master’s degree, specialising in nutrition. At CUAMM, I started as a project worker in the WDF (World Diabetes Foundation) program, dedicated to chronic non-communicable diseases. Recently, I was promoted to project manager: I am leading the vaccination project, financed by IRC (International Rescue Committee) with ECHO funds. In the first months after joining CUAMM, the big challenge I faced was understanding how to handle administrative procedures. Today I am in charge of implementing activities and managing budgets. Following up on projects, especially at a regional level, I interact with our beneficiaries, local authorities, and government office staff.
At the same time, I am the coordinator of “Impulse”, a newly launched research project, about improving data quality on neonatal care. I also got married a few months ago! My husband has a background in environment and health. He now works with the Institute of Public Health in Ethiopia, as head of prevention and control of infectious diseases, and is as committed as I am to curbing Covid-19. Thus, we share ideas and aspirations.
As a teenager, my wish would have been to become a doctor, but in Ethiopia, the government assigns students a specific field of education and university. However, I became deeply passionate about public health. I believe that prevention is crucial: if we can prevent diseases, we reduce treatment costs; of course treatment remains critical, but the more we can prevent, the better!».
Growing with Africa
«I am growing professionally, acquiring skills related to my new role. It is a great opportunity for me to work in an Italian organisation like CUAMM. In the future, I hope to be involved in more projects, especially research ones. Compared to local NGOs, here I can work in a diverse, international team, interacting with different perspectives».
The progress of the vaccination campaign against Covid-19 in Addis Ababa
«The campaigns are planned at the national level. So far they are proceeding quite well. We try to collect data to monitor progress. For example, in the last campaign in Kolfe Keranio, Addis Ababa, June 20 to 29, we carried out 24,531 vaccinations. However, based on previous experience, the demand for vaccines in the capital is still low. We expect to vaccinate more in the future. People are slowly becoming aware of the importance of having protection against the virus. Until last March, we only had a few people vaccinated, we have definitely improved, but the number is still less than a million.
It is not easy, because the population often receives wrong and conflicting information, depending on the source and the area they are in. Local and international media do not always go in the same direction. Fake news such as post-vaccine deaths and claiming the vaccine is still experimental, spreads. Also the percentage of Covid-19 cases in Ethiopia does not appear to be very high, this leads people to think there is no need to vaccinate. We continue to raise awareness, broadcasting information on those radio stations that are most listened to by communities, to reach those who are most reluctant of the vaccine. We try to debunk fake news by interviewing experts. We are also pursuing a new path to community engagement, together with community leaders to give correct information and listen to people’s concerns: we gather women and men who are against vaccination around a table to understand their concerns and fears. We hope this will at least raise awareness about the severe effects of Covid-19».
Always keeping up to date
«I have come a long way since handling emergencies in a local organisation. Today I learn a lot by doing, by closely taking care of procedures. I try to keep up to date, to go deeper, to study. I always have less time to read, because I work late or even during weekends, but when I can, I go back to the books of Yismak Worku, a famous writer who has published works on Ethiopia’s history, traditions and sacred culture. My personal recharge!».