Mercy mission

Friends, both doctors, use a Kiwanis International Foundation grant to bring improved practices to patients in Ethiopia.

Story by Tony Knoderer
Photos by Antonio Fiorente

Burn scars. Cleft lips and palates. In regions like Northern Ethiopia, these all-too-frequent deformities often go untreated. The Kiwanis Club of Stavelot Principauté, Belgium, helped children there by drawing on the compassion of its members—and the experience of one member in particular.

Dr. Romain Vanwijck was part of a surgical team that undertook two medical missions to the town of Mek’ele—thanks in part to a grant from the Kiwanis International Foundation. The medical teams consisted of plastic surgeons (including Vanwijck), anesthesiologists and a nurse.

dr. kibrom with patient and his students nov 29, 2012 8-56 pm. nov 29, 2012 8-56 pm

Ultimately, the missions resulted in life-changing service for more than a hundred children in the town. The team also trained area doctors to carry on these services.

“Many of the children are very fragile,” says Vanwijck. “Thanks to the grant, we bought a very useful apparatus that controls the cardiac, pulmonary and blood parameters that dramatically improve the safety of our surgeries.”



When Romain Vanwijck’s best friend, Mitiku Belachew, an abdominal surgeon, asked him to set up a medical mission in his home country of Ethiopia, Vanwijck, a plastic surgeon, didn’t hesitate. The doctors first visited Dire Dawa in the eastern portion of the country, then traveled to Ayder Hospital (above) in the northern town of Mek’ele. The doctors worked with a team, including Dr. Kibrom, pictured  below with a young burn patient. Another young patient waits in the hospital while doctors determine her treatment.

This story originally appeared in the March 2014 issue of Kiwanis magazine.

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