Situation: In Ethiopia, an estimated 70-80% of health problems are due to infectious and communicable diseases and nutritional problems. About 50-60 % of the population is chronically food insecure and more than half of the children below the age of five are stunted; 11% of the children are moderately wasted and 1% of these children are severely wasted. Malaria epidemics occur regularly.  There is a high incidence of diarrhea/water born disease as well as a high incidence of respiratory diseases.  Dehydration from diarrhea and acute respiratory illness are the major killers of under-five years of age children.

Health Infrastructure:  There is one government Health Center in Aleta Wondo, which is 2 kilometers from the project site.  It is managed by a registered nurse. There are two medium private clinics, two pharmacies, seven urban drug stores, and the nearest hospital is 26 kilometers away in Yirgalem.  There are not any doctors in Aleta Wondo.  The nearest hospital is in Yirgalem (30 kilometers) and the next closest is in Awassa (60 kilometers).



  • School nutrition lunch program:  150 hot meals served 5 days @ week
  • School Health Program:  health exams by volunteer doctors annually
  • Regular de-worming of students
  • Established a School pharmacy for student and staff first aid
  • Animal husbandry:  maintain and grow a herd of cows
  • Provided Nutrition training & Family planning for women and staff
  • Medical School annual service trip for community health and clinical care
  • Sanitation:  Constructed 6 school latrines and a hand, tooth and foot washing station
  • Water Supply:  Dug 5 wells, rain water catchment
  • Planted a Traditional Demonstration Garden: By maintaining the diverse agricultural and cooking traditions that sustain community food ways, diets, livelihoods and wellbeing, Common River encouraged traditional varieties of crops first domesticated in our geographic region.  A traditional garden was planted not only for food production but to learn how to maintain indigenous food production.  This is an educational effort to re-balance cash crops and indigenous food systems in Southern Ethiopia, in particular by promoting the diversity and productivity of traditional enset systems, and re-asserting women’s economic roles in food security.
  • The re-introduction of moringa (known as “shiferaw” in Ethiopia) provides a traditional, green leafy high protein source back into the diet.
  • The cultivation of honey was re-introduced.

We have an established relationship with the University of Texas School of Medicine/San Antonio since 2008.  The Center for Medical Humanities and Ethics, directed by Dr. Ruth Berggren, has sent 8 first year medical students accompanied by a medical professor to our program in rural Ethiopia every year. Prior to their 3-4 week summer practicum in the field, students organize fund-raisers to help pay for their costs.  They also collect donated medicines in the US, and hand-carry them in their luggage to Ethiopia.

The foundation of Common River’s health program rests on UT’s Ethiopia Outreach annual service trip.   Eight medical students and a professor(s) to provide clinical and community care to our community.  Our student body, faculty and NGO staff and families are given medical check-ups and treatment.  This is a tremendous contribution to our school and organization’s health.  The students also conduct a community health survey, which provides an opportunity for students to witness the environs of the patients who they will see at the clinic, as they go hut to hut to gather information.  This greatly informs their clinical case management and provides us with useful research data.

Without a peep about having the UT students come to Aleta Wondo, crowds start to gather for days, from a 100 kilometer radius, to await the arrival of the UT medical team at the local government health center.  Never do patients receive care that is as empathetic, equal and effective, as provided by the group of young, vibrant medical students and their medical doctor professor.   It is a challenge to manage the crowds, as it is but once a year that people seek care there.  Thus, the cases that present are in desperate condition, long past due for treatment.  They know they will receive compassionate, educated and skilled diagnosis and be treated with American medications for free.  Equally as important to them, they know they will be treated with respect.  Within the period of one week, UT students are exposed to more diseases than they would for years in the US.  Many lives (and eyesight!) have been saved.  After clinic hours, it is amazing to witness the students walk over hill and dale in the dark night and in the early dawn to find their patients in their mud huts in order to administer their medicines and make home visits.   The students exemplify “barefoot doctors” in the true sense of its meaning. It is what I could call an INTENSIVE CARE experience.
Library clinic  Medical Volunteer at Common River, Aleta Wondo, Ethiopia looking at a childs hurt foot Medicine for improving health care in Ethiopian village
Medical Volunteer in Ethiopia helping a woman anc child   malourished girl in Ethiopia getting help from a medical volunteer

Hand washing station in Ethiopian village to help improve health care Children in Ethiopian village getting a healthy, nutritious meal

UT students along with Dr. Hodes In 2011, the UT students along with Dr. Hodes, had an audience with President Girma at the Presidential Palace.


a)      Create a “HEALTH HUT” Wellness Center, a Preventive Health Post, as a depot for essential preventives, health education materials and traditional medicine.

b)      Develop a Visiting Doctor Program will be established to enlist specialists volunteer to contribute their services in Aleta Wondo.   Doctors will provide assessments, diagnose patients, provide medical advice and refer patients for appropriate follow-up.

c)       Create an Emergency Preparedness Scheme: Devising a plan for a community ambulance service to Yergallem Hospital and having adequate services at the Health Center for the first phase referrals.

d)    Increase Production & Promotion of Moringa:  The “Positive Deviant” Food, a high-protein plant, which is inexpensive and highly medicinal.

e)      Promotion of Enset:  The enset culture is a key to development in terms of nutrition, sustainable agriculture and cultural meaning.  Training in kitchen gardens to families.

f)     Nutrition Agents:  Female literacy students will sell nutrition products hut-to-hut, such as moringa, honey, ORS/zinc, iodized salt and deworming meds.

Moringa Garden to help health care in Ethiopian village

                                       Moringa Garden

Find out how your visit, medical volunteering, international internship, student volunteering, volunteer teaching and / or donations can help us reach our goal of sustainable development in Aleta Wondo, Ethiopia. For more information about Common River and how you can help, contact us today.