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Thursday, 29 July 2010

Joanna Kotcher Medical Coordinator in Ethiopia Kebri Dehar

Scottish-based Joanna Kotcher has had an extensive career.  Among her roles she has worked as a Medical Co-ordinator for Doctors of the World and other non-governmental organisations, also as a nurse, a writer and as a consultant. Originally from the USA Joanna is one of our in the field volunteers and has worked as a Medical Co-ordinator for about 13 years primarily in refugee camps and conflict situations to set up programmes and help implement changes to strategies that bring long awaited medical aid to disrupted areas.

Doctors Of the World had started work in 2007 in the Somali region of Ethioipa to provide primary health care in rural communities but was halted and was restarted in Kebri Dehar, a large town in the same region from 2008-2010. Joanna worked there from February to June 2010.

"I wanted to volunteer with Doctors of the World (DOW) as it combines work on human rights (specifically international humanitarian law and rights), medicine, and conflict. I can’t think of any other profession I would rather be in."

After arriving in Kebri Dehar , only military convoys, road work vehicles and some civil service cars were permitted to travel in the region. I was also struck by the limited amount, variety and quality of food available.

The DOW project during my mission was mainly hospital based with technical support, training, donation of drugs and supplies to surgery and maternal health. This included emergency services in obstetrics and operating theatre. Toward the end of my mission, we developed the next project plan which included time spent preparing various strategies, how to store blood donated for transfusions during power cuts, or how to organise the  pharmacy so that drugs are properly monitored. My ‘hands on’ days were spent on the hospital wards with members of our team, assisting in surgery, training staff, and seeing patients with the team. I have a specialisation in trauma (wound) care, surgery, and other conflict-related medical and psychological areas such gender based violence.

Following our return to the rural sites near town in May, we met with the elders of the community, local authorities, and village health workers that had not seen any humanitarian organisations for quite some time. Many of the village health posts had not been fully operative since 2008. The most pressing medical needs in this region were infectious diseases such as pneumonia, diarrheal diseases related to sanitation, and malaria.”

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