In 2022 the Else Kröner Fresenius Award for Development Cooperation in Medicine is being awarded to Sister Rita Schiffer from the Medical Mission Sisters, a gynecologist and medical director of Attat Hospital in Ethiopia, for the project “Sustainable Surgical Care in Attat”. The project was nominated by Jugend Eine Welt. The award presentation ceremony took place on October 14, 2022 at the event center KOSMOS Berlin.
Attat Hospital was founded by the Medical Mission Sisters in 1969. The hospital is located 200 kilometers southwest of Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, in the Gurage Zone, one of the poorest regions in the country. The facility is a key point of access for the people in rural Ethiopia. The main reasons are problems with pregnancies and births, infectious diseases, malaria and acute illnesses that require operations.
Sister Rita Schiffer is Medical Director at Attat Hospital. During her many years of activity she has particularly committed herself to providing medical care for women and children, to surgical gynecology, and to operative emergency surgery.
Teaching and advanced training of medical staff:
Within the framework of actively sustainable surgical care, the people collaborating on the project place a special focus on the teaching and advanced training of medical staff. Students at nursing and midwife schools and future physicians complete their practical training in Attat to enable them to perform emergency surgical and gynecological operations, including cesarean sections. This training program has enormous significance for primary care hospitals in rural regions: it’s the only way that long-term emergency surgical care can be guaranteed for patients in remote areas.
Maternity Waiting Home and obstetrics program:
Sister Rita actively engages herself to reduce the high rate of maternal and infant mortality among births by accommodating women from remote villages and those whose pregnancies are at risk in a house on the hospital grounds (the Maternity Waiting Home = MWH). Today, better possibilities for referrals, the launch of the MWH and round-the-clock on-call readiness for cesarean sections have led to a situation in which both mortality and birth-related complications for newborn infants and mothers occur less frequently, for example the formation of fistulas and uterine ruptures (spontaneous tearing of the uterus).
The great effectiveness of the house for mothers with risky pregnancies was able to be observed for 30 years. As a consequence, the Ethiopian government adopted this measure into the national health plan.
Sister Rita sets yet another emphasis on the medical treatment of elderly women, who often hold a lower priority in the family hierarchy and display a limited access to financial resources. In 2021, 505 operations were performed on older women in incidents of uterine or vaginal prolapse. To the greatest extent the operations were free of charge for the women or for a modest self-paid fee. In addition, the project is actively involved within the framework of an integrative health and development program in surrounding villages.
Future project goals:
The prize money amounting to 100,000 euros is intended to be used to finance educational and advanced training along with an increase in wages for 200 employees; the latter because the momentary rate of inflation in the country makes a normal subsistence level impossible. Medication and equipment for the operating rooms are also supposed to be purchased.
In this interview, award winner Sister Rita Schiffer gives a deeper insight into the project.
You can obtain more information in the Press Release from Oct. 13, 2022.
Impressions from the award ceremony: