Her Excellency Roman Tesfaye, first lady of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a women’s activist, particularly in the field of health, economic empowerment, and education. When she visited Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem on June 6, she learned how Hadassah’s mission aligns with hers.
“You have created a model of modern medicine and life-saving that has had an impact throughout the world,” she said. “I look forward to further cooperation between our countries.”
Joined on this visit by a large delegation of professionals from her country, Mrs. Tesfaye was in Israel with her husband, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, to follow up on joint economic and agricultural projects that Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had discussed with them on his trip to Africa.
The delegation was greeted by Dr. Osnat Levzion-Korach, Director of Hadassah Hospital Mount Scopus, who spoke of Hadassah's history, latest treatments, and research. Then the group received an in-depth briefing on Hadassah’s successful efforts to combat pediatric HIV/AIDS in Ethiopia, spearheaded by Hadassah Senior Pediatrician and Infectious Disease Specialist Prof. Dan Engelhard.
“When we started in the Mother Teresa Orphanage, where most of the 400 children were dying of HIV/AIDS, 25% of them died each year,” explained Prof. Engelhard. “In a short time, that death rate dropped to 1%.” Prof. Engelhard noted, too, that his team realized the children needed more than just medicine. “From our experience working with sick Ethiopian immigrant children in Israel,” he said, “we understood that a multidisciplinary approach -- including social and psychological services, art, and music -- were important elements of the program.”
Tens of thousands of children owe their lives to the intervention of Prof. Engelhard.
Also included in the visit were meetings with a representative from Israel’s Ministry of Health, who provided a historical perspective on Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America’s pre-state Tipat Halav (drop of milk) well-baby clinics, now a mainstay of Israeli health care. In addition, a representative of the Goshen project enlightened the group about its mission -- to educate hospital-trained physicians as to the need for comprehensive pediatric community medicine.
A team from Hadassah is scheduled to visit Ethiopia in November to provide corrective spine surgery to the many children with severe deformities. Senior Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Josh Schroeder updated the First Lady on this upcoming medical outreach.
While touring the Hadassah School, which aims to keep children current on their studies, Techilo Abie, an Ethiopian-born teacher, demonstrated and translated a computer educational program about the workings of the human brain.
While viewing the Chagall Windows, First Lady Tesfaya noted: “I am thrilled to know that Hadassah is the Hebrew name for Queen Esther. I read the Scroll of Esther frequently, as my inspiration for what my role is as first lady and as a woman. The King offered to fulfill Esther’s wishes ‘to half of the kingdom’ but, in the end, he gave her the whole kingdom of 127 nations to influence.”