Ethiopia is a country divided into nine regional states. Among the nine regions, Gambella is one of the poorest and most marginalized. Gambella is in the western part of Ethiopia about 770 km from Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. The state’s size is 25,802.01 square kilometers with an estimated population of over 306,916; urban inhabitants number 77,878 (25.37%) of the population. The main nationalities of the region are Anyuak, Komo, Mezhenger, Nuer, and Opo. Moreover, other ethnic groups, primarily from the highlands of Ethiopia are also living in the region. While the majority of the population of Gambella are Christian (about 70% Protestant, 16.8% Orthodox Christian), 3.8% practice traditional religions, 4.9% are Muslim; 3.4% are Catholic, and others constitute 1.1%.
In general, the population of Gambella has a poor health status relative to other regions of Ethiopia. The most common diseases are preventable infectious ailments and nutritional deficiencies. Infectious and communicable diseases account for about 60-80 % of the health problems in Gambella. The most common reasons for outpatient visits at Gambella’s health institutions are malaria, intestinal helminthiasis (infestation of parasitic worms), and acute respiratory tract infections including pneumonia, tuberculosis and upper respiratory infections. Outbreaks of meningitis, measles and diarrheal diseases including cholera are also common during the rainy season. Periodically, the area experiences heavy seasonal rains which cause flooding, leading to internal displacement and increased risk for diseases related to stagnant waters, including malaria and cholera. The widespread food shortages associated with these natural disasters further result in malnutrition and under-nutrition. Widespread poverty along with general low income levels of the population, low education levels (especially among women), inadequate access to clean water and sanitation facilities, and poor access to health services have contributed to the high burden of ill-health in Gambella.
It is imperative that the health sector is prepared to meet the additional health burden resulting from natural disasters and man-made emergencies. One of the steps in this regard is for GMTC to provide periodical screening for nutritional and health needs among vulnerable groups. Another step is to build the required health care services, including educating professionals and the community about health. Additional strategies may also be required to assist in the implementation of programs for times of emergency and disaster. GMTC also will provide mechanisms of monitoring of the nutritional status of children as well as the impact of interventions (nutritional surveillance systems).
One of the most exciting developments for GMTC is the new partnership with the Gambella Medical School being developed by Gambella University with Wayne State University in Michigan and other individual partnerships. Gambella Medical School is an opportunity to train physicians locally as a means of transforming health outcomes for the region. Our vision is to make Gambella Medical School a center of excellence from which well trained, competent and compassionate physicians will lead out in changing medical care. Students from Ethiopia and neighboring South Sudan will be invited to apply for acceptance, knowing that when students are trained locally, they are more likely to remain close to home and build up the medical team in the region
The main purpose of GmTc in Gamblla is to improve quality of life for those who are vulnerable and suffering from all health-related conditions, including infectious disease such as tuberculosis (TB), malaria, cholera, and HIV/AIDS in the Gambella Regional State of Ethiopia and beyond. Like people in other countries of the world, especially countries of Sub-Sahara Africa, people in Ethiopia are facing burden of infectious diseases, including the Gambella region. While most of the deaths from these infectious diseases such as diarrheal cholera is preventable, due to lack of hygiene and clean drinking water, many lives are lost annually. Therefore, health education about disease transmission and prevention is critical at the community level. For example, education about HIV/AIDS spread and prevention is important for vulnerable groups such as teenagers, youth, and adults who have lost spouses to HIV/AIDS. GMTC will educate people about health issues and dispel common myths about these viruses and equip the community with knowledge. Staff will discuss other important topics, such as hygiene, nutrition, prenatal care, and dental care.
In addition to infectious diseases, the people of Gambella are facing burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in recent years. The nature of most NCDs requires a well-integrated healthcare system to meet chronic healthcare needs. This poses a challenge for nations faced with limited human, financial, and infrastructure resources. This is especially true in Gambella Regional State of Ethiopia where NCDs already account for many deaths and the healthcare workforce is deficient by hundreds of workers to meet even basic healthcare needs. The proportion of deaths in Gambella attributable to NCD’s-such as cancers, hypertension, and diabetes-has increased in the past decade. In response to these statistics, innovative models of healthcare delivery that integrate novel use of human and technological resources are required as priorities for the Gambella region.