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How many of us used to imagine that there is a monster hiding under the bed when we were children?

For a lot of Ethiopian children the monster is real and it is not hiding. It’s the hyena. These animals pick children as their victims because they are small, weak and vulnerable, and often careless.

There are no existing statistics on how many children are savaged by hyenas in Ethiopia, but Facing Africa is approached at least twice a year by the families of those who have survived horrific attacks by the animal with one of the most powerful jaws in the animal world.

After seeing how badly their little bodies and heads are damaged one cannot think of their survival being anything else but a miracle.  But even for those few who survive the real challenge is to stay alive in a country where one might need to travel 6 hours to the closest rural hospital to receive first aid and then 3 days journey to the capital with no real guarantee of lifesaving treatment.

In 2014 we treated Gemedi, in 2015 it was little Abel whose life was saved by the skills and dedication of our volunteer surgeons. This year we have Assanti, a 4 year old girl, who was attacked by a starving hyena in her family’s compound and saved by her mother.

Our outreach officer found Assanti in the Hiwot Fana hospital in Harar in a very poor condition. The girl was going to die from the severe facial injuries sustained during the attack. Her pictures and details were sent to our medical team and a quick decision was taken to bring her to the MCM hospital in Addis Ababa.

She is safe now at MCM with her father and mother, who left their tiny farm in Harar to be by her side. Her wounds are being cared for properly. There is still a long fight ahead of her and our surgeons will give their best to reconstruct her face and give her a chance of a new beginning in October 2016.

Assanti and her parents at MCM hospital, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Assanti and her parents at MCM hospital, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

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Access to health care is often very poor in rural Ethiopia, partly due to physical isolation, but also related to the weak position of the issue within national priority setting. It is very likely, that Nyaluk, pictured below, has never been to hospital or undergone any medical treatment. None of her 4 children were born in the hospital. We will never be able to fully comprehend the feelings of our rural patients, feelings of people who have always lived with long established traditional laws, languages, dress, religion, sacred ceremonies, rituals, healers, and remedies. When they arrive to our care in Addis Ababa sometimes after days of journeying through the countryside, they are faced with the complete unknown: white people inspecting their faces, asking them questions they have never been asked before, trying to get them into routine of sleeping, showering and eating. People like Nyaluk are rarely given the opportunity to represent their own perspectives and understanding of their health and their views on the actions to be taken to improve it. We always ask our patients what they want, what they expect and how they FEEL about surgery. It is heart-breaking to see some of them walk away from a possibly life changing operation because they are so overwhelmed by it all. After spending most of her childhood and adult life with face affected by NOMA, getting married and having children, Nyaluk chose to have her surgery in May 2017 and October 2017. She is going to come back for revision in May 2018. Pictured below: Nyaluk before and after her surgery. ... See MoreSee Less

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