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Diaspora Activist: Health Care Project in Ethiopia a Success

  • Ashenafi Abedje

Asfaha Hadera of African Services Committee says funding still a concern

The U.S.-based African Services Committee (ASC) says its HIV Prevention and Treatment project in Ethiopia has proved highly successful. ASC director Asfaha Hadera said the program, which was launched eight years ago in the capital, Addis Ababa, is multi-faceted.

“It’s a one stop,” said Hadera. “It is counseling and testing, it is treatment, an outreach, reproductive health, family planning, nutrition, income generating activities for destitute mothers and their children.”

Hadera expressed gratitude to those who have been encouraging and helping ASC fulfill its mission. That so much has been accomplished with such limited resources is “magic and a blessing,” he said.

The funding for his organization, he said, comes from contributions by “generous Americans, United Nations Population Fund, as well as Ethiopia’s St. George Brewery and Castle Wineries.” Hadera said ASC has also partnered with the U.S. firm iTech on “mobile counseling and testing” activities.

The Ethiopian-born humanitarian activist said regional and federal health bureaus in Ethiopia have been supportive of his group’s project. He expressed hope that ASC’s efforts will be further recognized down the road so “we get our fair share and we can do more and better.”

In addition to the project in Ethiopia, CSI addresses the needs of newcomers in the United States. It provides health, housing, legal, educational, and social services to about 10,000 people a year.

African Services Committee was founded in 1981 in New York’s Harlem district. Hadera reflects on what inspired him to launch the organization.

“When I came [to the US] as a political refugee in 1979, there was no organization to guide and walk us through the system, access us to social security, healthcare, housing, employment and so forth.”

He couldn’t just stand by and watch, he said, and he decided he should fill the void. He said he launched his ambitious project by taking baby steps. “The program was initiated in my own small apartment.“

Hadera said his group’s efforts got a boost when “the Unitarian Universalist Society’s Community Church of New York offered us free office space in Manhattan.” But he said funding was in short supply.

The Ethiopian-born activist said nearly 30 years after its founding, resources remain a concern for the African Services Committee and its ever-increasing projects. All the same, Hadera said, he takes pride in what he and his colleagues have accomplished both in the United States and in Africa. He credits his wife, Kim Nichols, for her “unflinching support“ for the cause.