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Ethiopian Volunteers Work on Front Lines of Health

The Carter Center is working closely with the Federal Ministry of Health in Ethiopia to eliminate river blindness (onchocerciasis) and lymphatic filariasis throughout that East African nation. Essential to the effort are thousands of volunteers called community-directed distributors, or CDDs, who are chosen by their own communities and do all the work of carefully administering medicine and keeping detailed records. Scroll down to meet a few of them. 
(All photos: The Carter Center/R. Youngblood) 

  • Mare Workluel is a CDD in Gondar region’s Wudi Gemzu kebele (administrative area), a river blindness hot spot that is receiving mass drug administration four times a year instead of the usual one or two. A river flows a short distance from this village, providing a breeding ground for the black flies that transmit onchocerciasis, commonly known as river blindness.

  • Ehtnesh Aschalew is a CDD in Wudi Gemzu kebele. The hot spot is a relatively small zone where the disease has been detected in black flies despite having been eliminated in the surrounding area. Stepped-up mass administration of Mectizan®, donated by Merck & Co. Inc., is aimed at stopping transmission of the river blindness parasite.

  • River blindness most often occurs in rural areas but also can be found in urban settings under certain circumstances. CDD Tigist Gebremeskel, left, administers Mectizan to a resident of Gambella Town’s densely populated Kebele 5 neighborhood. The man holding the cup of water to wash down the tablets is CDD Tesema Desalegn.

  • CDD Alemu Orebo provides a health lesson with the authority of a sports coach as part of mass drug administration activities for river blindness and lymphatic filariasis in the Gambella region’s Abobo District.

  • Health extension workers and CDDs like Tesfanesh Tadesse are the backbone of Carter Center-supported public health programs such as those that work to eliminate onchocerciasis and lymphatic filariasis. Tesfanesh has a gift for establishing trust with people, helping mass drug administration go smoothly.

  • CDD Alem Dikaso brings a sly sense of humor to her work as a CDD in the Abobo District of Gambella Region. Because she is tall, she usually takes on the duty of measuring people with the dosing stick.

  • CDD Meleshew Sisay measures the height of one of her neighbors in Gondar District’s Mender 3 community to determine how many ivermectin tablets he should receive to prevent river blindness. The maximum dose, given to the tallest adults, is four tablets of Mectizan.

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