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Cablegate: Medoff Visits Self-Help Supported Fistula Center

VZCZCXRO4501
RR RUEHROV
DE RUEHAE #0005 0040821
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 040821Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY ASMARA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9366
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 1561
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 1739
RUEPADJ/CJTF-HOA J2X CAMP LEMONIER DJ
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RUMICEA/JICCENT MACDILL AFB FL

UNCLAS ASMARA 000005

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SOCI EAID ER
SUBJECT: MedOff Visits Self-Help Supported Fistula Center

1. (U) Summary: On December 14 MedOff, CLO, and the Embassy's LES
RN visited the Fistula Center at the Mendefera Hospital to deliver
donated medical supplies and to meet American surgeons sent to train
local surgeons on fistula repair techniques. MedOff noted that the
hospital appeared to be well kept, although some of the hospital's
medical equipment was not functioning. Post was also pleasantly
surprised at how rapidly the necessary travel permits were issued.
End Summary.

2. (U) On December 10 MedOff and CLO submitted requests to the
Government of the State of Eritrea (GSE) for permission to travel to
Mendefera (Note: All non-Eritreans, including resident diplomats,
are required to submit travel permits 10 days in advance of travel
outside of Asmara. End note.) Travel permits, if approved, usually
take the full 10 days to be processed. Post was pleasantly
surprised at the four-day turnaround.

3. (U) Mendefera is a small city of approximately 100,000 people
located 54 kilometers south of Asmara. The city's 250-patient
hospital was built in 2005 by the Chinese government and is now a
part of Eritrea's National Health Service. The hospital's campus is
large with several buildings separated by covered paved walkways.
Despite being generally well kept and in good condition, MedOff
reported that open windows in some of the buildings were not covered
by screens, an obvious hygiene and malaria concern. MedOff also
noted that the hospital's mechanical system for delivering oxygen
and providing suction to patient rooms was not functional.

4. (U) The Fistula Center receives significant funding from the
United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and Johnson and Johnson. The
local staff performs between four and five fistula repairs per day.
For FY 2008 approximately $10,000 of U.S. Embassy Self-Help funds
has been allocated to the Fistula program for two key pieces of
equipment to assist in surgeries. One piece of equipment is an
obstetric ultrasound machine. This machine is a preventative tool
for assessing women during pregnancy and while in labor for
obstetrical complications that cause fistula. The other is called
an i-Stat. The i-Stat is a hand held machine that measures serum
electrolytes for both pre and post operative fistula patients.

5. (U) While at the Center, MedOff discussed cases and training for
the local surgeons with visiting American surgeon Dr. Mark Morgan.
Dr. Morgan informed MedOff that the local surgeons' skills were
progressing under his tutelage.

6. (U) A hostel is located about 1.5 kilometers from the hospital
to house fistula patients and provide nutritional support prior to
surgery. (Note: Many Eritreans, especially those in rural areas,
exhibit symptoms of malnutrition. End note.) Patients also use the
hostel to recover, be given post operative nursing, and receive
self-care education. The U.S. Embassy delivered donated soaps and
toiletries to the residents of the hostel.

7. (U) Comment: Despite the obvious challenges of providing
medical care in Eritrea, the medical team was impressed with the
ability and commitment of the staff of the Fistula Center. Although
the facility would not meet American standards, the Center's staff
is committed to providing this necessary surgery and to helping
their patients overcome the social stigma of their condition.
MedOff noted that the assistance provided to the Center through
donations is being put to good use, as will be the future Self-Help
Funded equipment donation. End comment.

MCMULLEN

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