She is currently on antiretroviral medications and lives in government housing in Gulele, a sub city of the capital. The house is made of corrugated iron sheets; electricity is intermittent with no piped water. She has to collect water from a communal pump five minutes away from her house.
Merht suffered from side pains, as well as other symptoms associated with her illness. She was left by her husband because of her health condition.
She was referred to Hospice Ethiopia by a community volunteer, Dawit, who was working with one of the local traditional burial societies called ‘iddirs’.
An iddir is an Ethiopian financial and social institution. Originally, these groups were formed to help community members bury their dead; however, the groups are now more wide-ranging and their functions include financial and material assistance to group members.
Hospice Ethiopia is using iddirs to create awareness about palliative care and the services that they provide for the local community.
Because of this initiative, the local iddirs help Dawit identify people who could benefit from palliative care. Merht was one of the people referred to him.
Merht was given pain medication and put on antibiotics. She was given financial and emotional support.
This led to an improvement in her condition. Consequently, her husband returned home and they now live as a family again.
Hospice and palliative care work is very limited in Ethiopia. Hospice Ethiopia is the only organisation providing this service in a country of 85 million people, 78% of whom are living below the poverty line. The Worldwide Hospice Palliative Care Alliance (WHPCA) works in partnership with Hospice Ethiopia to provide technical advice and to help them source funding
Without the help of iddirs, identifying people like Merht would have been difficult. By working with culturally appropriate groups, Hospice Ethiopia is better able to deliver much needed palliative care.