A few weeks ago I was on assignment for the Limb Kind Foundation at CURE Ethiopia Children's Hospital in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. During my time shooting for Limb Kind I was granted special access at the hospital. In the children's ward I was able to capture fleeting moments of the daily lives of children being treated for the correction of bone deformities, limb loss, and limb difference. I was also able to capture interactions between doctors and their young patients in the children's ward, during outpatient office visits, and during medical procedures.
I'm going to share with you about 20 images I shot during my time there. You would think that in such an intimate setting there would have been a plea for privacy, but instead each image was welcomed by both hospital staff and patients. On some mornings I followed the dietary staff as they delivered meals to patients as a way to say hello. On other days I would walk through the patient ward and gesture with my camera asking if a photo would be permitted. It has never felt so good to show a child their image behind the camera. If only for a moment, I felt this interaction brought them a sense of joy "to be seen."
In many countries, like Ethiopia, a child with a disability is often isolated and hidden in their home. This stigma disadvantages children in education, employment, marriage, and community, and is exacerbated by barriers to care. People view the cause to be supernatural forces, evil spirits, ancestral spirits, exposure to an eclipse or black magic.
Pediatric physician Dr. Yodit Enkossa at CURE Ethiopia Children's Hospital says, "Because Ethiopia is a poor country with a low literacy rate, many view giving birth to a child with a deformity as a curse. The majority of people here use traditional medicine." She explained how she had a patient who bumped into a close friend at CURE and discovered they both had a child with cleft lip. "Although they were friends for many years, they never shared this with each-other because they felt ashamed. Many others even go to the extreme measure of leaving a child born with a disability at a hospital. In a nearby orphanage there are more than 100 abandoned children with a disability."
CURE Ethiopia Children's Hospital is the only pediatric orthopedic hospital in the country. The hospital offers free care for orthopedic, cleft palate surgery, and burn victims. The hospital also offers outpatient psychosocial, dietary, and spiritual counseling. Currently, CURE Ethiopia Children's Hospital has a wait list of over 5000 patients. The hospital is a modern complex that provides modern medical and surgical care to physically disabled children. In addition, CURE Ethiopia Children's Hospital fills a critical need as an orthopedic training site in the country. The hospital is well-placed within the country and serves to help foster change in surgical expertise through training and hosting international experts.