Background: Following the recent drought in Ethiopia, the Jewish Agency, aided by the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, launched a medical relief mission to a rural district in Ethiopia in May-August 2000.
Objectives: To present the current medical needs and deficiencies in this representative region of Central Africa, to describe the mission's mode of operation, and to propose alternative operative modes.
Methods: We critically evaluate the current local needs and existing medical system, retrospectively analyze the mission's work and the patients' characteristics, and summarize a panel discussion of all participants and organizers regarding potential alternative operative modes.
Results: An ongoing medical disaster exists in Ethiopia, resulting from the burden of morbidity, an inadequate health budget, and insufficient medical personnel, facilities and supplies. The mission operated a mobile outreach clinic for 3 months, providing primary care to 2,500 patients at an estimated cost of $48 per patient. Frequent clinical diagnoses included gastrointestinal and respiratory tract infections, skin and ocular diseases (particularly trachoma), sexually transmitted diseases, AIDS, tuberculosis, intestinal parasitosis, malnutrition and malaria.
Conclusions: This type of operation is feasible but its overall impact is marginal and temporary. Potential alternative models of providing medical support under such circumstances are outlined.