Health care and safety in Ethiopia
The Peace Corps’ highest priority is maintaining the good health and safety of every Volunteer. Peace Corps medical programs emphasize the preventive, rather than the curative, approach to disease. The Peace Corps in Ethiopia maintains a clinic with a full-time medical officer, who takes care of Volunteers’ primary health care needs. Additional medical services, such as testing and basic treatment, are also available in Ethiopia at local hospitals. If you become seriously ill, you will be transported either to an American-standard medical facility in the region or to the United States.
- 1 Health Issues in Ethiopia
- 2 Helping You Stay Healthy
- 3 Maintaining Your Health
- 4 Women’s Health Information
- 5 Your Peace Corps Medical Kit
- 6 Before You Leave: A Medical Checklist
- 7 Safety and Security—Our Partnership
- 8 Factors that Contribute to Volunteer Risk
- 9 Summary Strategies to Reduce Risk
- 10 Support from Staff
- 11 Crime Data for Ethiopia
- 12 Security Issues in Ethiopia
- 13 Staying Safe: Don’t Be a Target for Crime
- 14 Preparing for the Unexpected: Safety Training and Volunteer Support in Ethiopia
Health Issues in Ethiopia
Ethiopia is geographically diverse. Health risks in Ethiopia include insect-borne diseases such as malaria, tick-borne typhus, and dengue fever; food- and water-borne diseases such as intestinal worms, giardiasis, amebiasis, typhoid fever, hepatitis A and E, cholera, hepatitis B, HIV/AIDS, polio, rabies and snake bites. There are also periodic outbreaks of meningococcal meningitis in some areas, and fatal hemorrhagic fevers are present but rare.
Helping You Stay Healthy
The Peace Corps will provide you with all the necessary inoculations, medications, and information to stay healthy. Upon your arrival in Ethiopia, you will receive a medical handbook. At the end of training, you will receive a medical kit with supplies to take care of mild illnesses and first-aid needs. The contents of the kit are listed later in this chapter.
During pre-service training, you will have access to basic medical supplies through the medical officer. However, you will be responsible for your own supply of prescription drugs and any other specific medical supplies you require, as the Peace Corps will not order these items during training. Please bring a three-month supply of any prescription drugs you use, since they may not be available here and it may take several months for shipments to arrive.
You will have physicals at midservice and at the end of your service. If you develop a serious medical problem during your service, the medical officer in Ethiopia will consult with the Office of Medical Services in Washington, D.C. If it is determined that your condition cannot be treated in Ethiopia, you may be sent out of the country for further evaluation and care.
Maintaining Your Health
As a Volunteer, you must accept considerable responsibility for your own health. Proper precautions will significantly reduce your risk of serious illness or injury. The adage “An ounce of prevention …” becomes extremely important in areas where diagnostic and treatment facilities are not up to the standards of the United States. The most important of your responsibilities in Ethiopia is to take the following preventive measures:
Many illnesses that afflict Volunteers worldwide are entirely preventable if proper food and water precautions are taken. These illnesses include food poisoning, parasitic infections, hepatitis A, dysentery, Guinea worms, tapeworms, and typhoid fever. Your medical officer will discuss specific standards for water and food preparation in Ethiopia during pre-service training.
Abstinence is the only certain choice for preventing infection with HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. You are taking risks if you choose to be sexually active. To lessen risk, use a condom every time you have sex. Whether your partner is a host country citizen, a fellow Volunteer, or anyone else, do not assume this person is free of HIV/AIDS or other STDs. You will receive more information from the medical officer about this important issue.
Volunteers are expected to adhere to an effective means of birth control to prevent an unplanned pregnancy. Your medical officer can help you decide on the most appropriate method to suit your individual needs. Contraceptive methods are available without charge from the medical officer. It is critical to your health that you promptly report to the medical office or other designated facility for scheduled immunizations, and that you let the medical officer know immediately of significant illnesses and injuries.
Women’s Health Information
Pregnancy is treated in the same manner as other Volunteer health conditions that require medical attention but also have programmatic ramifications. The Peace Corps is responsible for determining the medical risk and the availability of appropriate medical care if the Volunteer remains in-country. Given the circumstances under which Volunteers live and work in Peace Corps countries, it is rare that the Peace Corps’ medical and programmatic standards for continued service during pregnancy can be met.
If feminine hygiene products are not available for you to purchase on the local market, the Peace Corps medical officer in Ethiopia will provide them. If you require a specific product, please bring a three-month supply with you.
Your Peace Corps Medical Kit
The Peace Corps medical officer will provide you with a kit that contains basic items necessary to prevent and treat illnesses that may occur during service. Kit items can be periodically restocked at the medical office.
Medical Kit Contents
American Red Cross First Aid & Safety Handbook
Antacid tablets (Tums)
Antibiotic ointment (Bacitracin/Neomycin/Polymycin B)
Antiseptic antimicrobial skin cleaner (Hibiclens)
Diphenhydramine HCL 25 mg (Benadryl)
Insect repellent stick (Cutter’s)
Iodine tablets (for water purification)
Lip balm (Chapstick)
Oral rehydration salts
Oral thermometer (Fahrenheit)
Pseudoephedrine HCL 30 mg (Sudafed)
Robitussin-DM lozenges (for cough)
Sterile gauze pads
Tetrahydrozaline eyedrops (Visine)
Tinactin (antifungal cream)
Before You Leave: A Medical Checklist
If there has been any change in your health—physical, mental, or dental—since you submitted your examination reports to the Peace Corps, you must immediately notify the Office of Medical Services. Failure to disclose new illnesses, injuries, allergies, or pregnancy can endanger your health and may jeopardize your eligibility to serve.
If your dental exam was done more than a year ago, or if your physical exam is more than two years old, contact the Office of Medical Services to find out whether you need to update your records. If your dentist or Peace Corps dental consultant has recommended that you undergo dental treatment or repair, you must complete that work and make sure your dentist sends requested confirmation reports or X-rays to the Office of Medical Services.
If you wish to avoid having duplicate vaccinations, contact your physician’s office to obtain a copy of your immunization record and bring it to your pre-departure orientation. If you have any immunizations prior to Peace Corps service, the Peace Corps cannot reimburse you for the cost. The Peace Corps will provide all the immunizations necessary for your overseas assignment, either at your pre-departure orientation or shortly after you arrive in Ethiopia. You do not need to begin taking malaria medication prior to departure. Bring a three-month supply of any prescription or over-thecounter medication you use on a regular basis, including birth control pills. Although the Peace Corps cannot reimburse you for this three-month supply, it will order refills during your service. While awaiting shipment—which can take several months—you will be dependent on your own medication supply. The Peace Corps will not pay for herbal or nonprescribed medications, such as St. John’s wort, glucosamine, selenium, or antioxidant supplements.
You are encouraged to bring copies of medical prescriptions signed by your physician. This is not a requirement, but they might come in handy if you are questioned in transit about carrying a three-month supply of prescription drugs. If you wear eyeglasses, bring two pairs with you—a pair and a spare. If a pair breaks, the Peace Corps will replace it, using the information your doctor in the United States provided on the eyeglasses form during your examination. The Peace Corps discourages you from using contact lenses during your service to reduce your risk of developing a serious infection or other eye disease. Most Peace Corps countries do not have appropriate water and sanitation to support eye care with the use of contact lenses. The Peace Corps will not supply or replace contact lenses or associated solutions unless an ophthalmologist has recommended their use for a specific medical condition and the Peace Corps’ Office of Medical Services has given approval.
If you are eligible for Medicare, are over 50 years of age, or have a health condition that may restrict your future participation in health care plans, you may wish to consult an insurance specialist about unique coverage needs before your departure. The Peace Corps will provide all necessary health care from the time you leave for your pre-departure orientation until you complete your service. When you finish, you will be entitled to the post-service health care benefits described in the Peace Corps Volunteer Handbook. You may wish to consider keeping an existing health plan in effect during your service if you think age or preexisting conditions might prevent you from reenrolling in your current plan when you return home.
Safety and Security—Our Partnership
Serving as a Volunteer overseas entails certain safety and security risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment, a limited understanding of the local language and culture, and the perception of being a wealthy American are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk. Property theft and burglaries are not uncommon. Incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur, although almost all Volunteers complete their two years of service without serious personal safety problems. In addition, more than 83 percent of Volunteers surveyed in the 2008 Peace Corps Volunteer Survey say they would join the Peace Corps again. The Peace Corps approaches safety and security as a partnership with you. This Welcome Book contains sections on: Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyle; Peace Corps Training; and Your Health Care and Safety. All of these sections include important safety and security information. The Peace Corps makes every effort to give Volunteers the tools they need to function in the safest and most secure way possible, because working to maximize the safety and security of Volunteers is our highest priority. Not only do we provide you with training and tools to prepare for the unexpected, but we teach you to identify, minimize and manage the risks you may encounter.
Factors that Contribute to Volunteer Risk
There are several factors that can heighten a Volunteer’s risk, many of which are within the Volunteer’s control. By far the most common crime incidents that Volunteers experience are thefts. Frequently these occur in crowded locations, such as markets or on public transportation, or are due to Volunteers leaving items unattended. More serious assaults, however, do occasionally occur. Based on information gathered from incident reports worldwide in 2007, the following factors stand out as risk characteristics for crimes against Volunteers, many of which can be avoided with appropriate actions. Assaults consist of physical and sexual assaults committed against Volunteers; property crimes include robbery, burglary, theft, and vandalism.
- Location: Most assaults (53 percent) occurred when Volunteers were in public areas (e.g., street, park, beach, public buildings). Specifically, 36 percent of assaults took place when Volunteers were away from their sites. Most property crimes occurred in the Volunteer’s residence or another Volunteer’s residence, followed closely by public areas. Forty-eight percent of property crimes occurred when Volunteers were away from their sites
- Time: Assaults usually took place during the evening, between 6 p.m. and 11 p.m.— though the single hour with the largest percentage of assaults was 1:00 a.m.(8 percent) Property crimes were more common in the middle of the day, from noon to 9 p.m.
- Day: Assaults and property crimes were more commonly reported on weekends (48 percent and 49 percent, respectively).
- Absence of others: Assaults and property crimes (64 percent and 53 percent, respectively) occured more frequently when the Volunteer was alone.
- Relationship to assailant: In most assaults and property crimes (64 percent and 85 percent), the Volunteer did not know or could not identify the assailant.
- Consumption of alcohol: 23 percent of all assaults and 4 percent of all property crimes involved alcohol consumption by Volunteers and/or assailants.
Risk factors can vary within countries throughout the world that are served by the Peace Corps. A Volunteer in Ethiopia may face risks specific to this country in addition to risks associated with living in a developing country.
Summary Strategies to Reduce Risk
Before and during service, your training will address these areas of concern so you can reduce the risks you face. For example, here are some strategies Volunteers employ:
Strategies to reduce the risk/impact of theft:
- Know the environment and choose safe routes/times for travel
- Avoid high-crime areas per Peace Corps guidance
- Know the vocabulary to get help in an emergency
- Carry valuables in different pockets/places
- Carry a “dummy” wallet as a decoy
Strategies to reduce the risk/impact of burglary:
- Live with a local family or on a family compound
- Put strong locks on doors and keep valuables in a lock box or trunk
- Leave irreplaceable objects at home in the U.S.
- Purchase the Peace Corps recommended personal property insurance
- Follow Peace Corps guidelines on maintaining home security
Strategies to reduce the risk/impact of assault:
- Make local friends with local people who are respected in the community
- Make sure your appearance is respectful of local customs; don’t draw negative attention to yourself by wearing inappropriate clothing
- Get to know local officials, police, and neighbors
- Travel with someone trusted by your community whenever possible
- Avoid known high crime areas
- Limit alcohol consumption
Support from Staff
In March 2003, the Peace Corps created the Office of Safety and Security with its mission to “foster improved communication, coordination, oversight, and accountability of all Peace Corps’ safety and security efforts.” This office is led by an associate director for safety and security who reports to the Peace Corps Director and includes divisions which focus on Volunteer safety and overseas security and crime statistics and analysis.
If a trainee or Volunteer is the victim of a safety incident, Peace Corps staff is prepared to provide support. All Peace Corps posts have procedures in place to respond to incidents of crime committed against Volunteers. The first priority for all posts in the aftermath of an incident is to ensure the Volunteer is safe and receiving medical treatment as needed. After assuring the safety of the Volunteer, Peace Corps staff members provide support by reassessing the Volunteer’s worksite and housing arrangements and making any adjustments, as needed. In some cases, the nature of the incident may necessitate a site or housing transfer. Peace Corps staff will also assist Volunteers with preserving their rights to pursue legal sanctions against the perpetrators of the crime. It is very important that Volunteers report incidents as
they occur, not only to protect their peer Volunteers, but also to preserve the future right to prosecute. Should Volunteers decide later in the process that they want to proceed with the prosecution of their assailant, this option may no longer exist if the evidence of the event has not been preserved at the time of the incident.
Crime Data for Ethiopia
The country-specific data chart below shows the incidence rates and the average number of incidents of the major types of safety incidents reported by Peace Corps Volunteers/ trainees in Ethiopia as compared to all other Africa region programs as a whole, from 20022004–20062008. It is presented to you in a somewhat technical manner for statistical accuracy.
To fully appreciate the collected data below, an explanation of the graph is provided as follows:
The incidence rate for each type of crime is the number of crime events relative to the Volunteer/trainee population. It is expressed on the chart as a ratio of crime to Volunteer and trainee years (or V/T years, which is a measure of 12 full months of V/T service) to allow for a statistically valid way to compare crime data across countries. An “incident” is a specific offense, per Peace Corps’ classification of offenses, and may involve one or more Volunteer/trainee victims. For example, if two Volunteers are robbed at the same time and place, this is classified as one robbery incident.
The chart is separated into eight crime categories. These include vandalism (malicious defacement or damage of property); theft (taking without force or illegal entry); burglary (forcible entry of a residence); robbery (taking something by force); other physical assault (attacking without a weapon with minor injuries); other sexual assault (fondling, groping, etc.); aggravated assault (attacking with a weapon, and/or without a weapon when serious injury results); and rape (sexual intercourse without consent).
When anticipating Peace Corps Volunteer service, you should review all of the safety and security information provided to you, including the strategies to reduce risk. Throughout your training and Volunteer service, you will be expected to successfully complete all training competencies in a variety of areas, including safety and security. Once in-country, use the tools and information shared with you to remain as safe and secure as possible.
Few Peace Corps Volunteers are victims of serious crimes and, naturally, crimes that occur overseas are investigated and prosecuted by local authorities through the local courts system. If you are the victim of a crime, it is up to you if you wish to pursue prosecution. If you decide to prosecute, Peace Corps will be there to assist you. The Office of Safety and Security, through our regionally-based Peace Corps safety and security officers, will work with the security officer at the U.S. embassy and the staff at the Peace Corps office in-country to coordinate with local police and prosecutors. One of our tasks is to ensure you are fully informed of your options and understand how the local legal process works. We are here to provide support and assistance every step of the way. Peace Corps will help you ensure your rights are protected to the fullest extent possible under the laws of the country. If you are the victim of a serious crime, get to a safe location as quickly as possible and contact your Peace Corps office. It’s important that you notify Peace Corps as soon as you can so we can get you the help you need.
Security Issues in Ethiopia
When it comes to your safety and security in the Peace Corps, you have to be willing to adapt your behavior and lifestyle to minimize the potential for being a target for crime. As with anywhere in the world, crime does exist in Ethiopia. You can reduce your risk by avoiding situations that make you feel uncomfortable and by taking precautions. Crime at the village or town level is less frequent than in the large cities; people know each other and generally are less likely to steal from their neighbors. Tourist attractions in large towns are favorite worksites for pickpockets. The following are safety concerns in Ethiopia of which you should be aware:
Major Ethiopian cities are growing at a rapid rate, and with increasing economic difficulties, they are becoming more dangerous. There are increases in the number of beggars, street children, and violent crimes in all the large cities of Ethiopia.
Travel is by far one of the biggest concerns for Volunteers in Ethiopia. The safest response is to avoid travel whenever possible; yet, the reality is that for work, medical, or other reasons Volunteers do travel from time to time. As part of Peace Corps/Ethiopia’s overall preventive strategy to reduce road travel, the post has developed a safety and security plan that includes bringing service closer to Volunteers (e.g., conducting medical clinics at regional offices and conducting regional meetings). The post also has developed detailed safety policies regarding Volunteer travel. Regional meetings provide opportunities to review safety and security information at Volunteer sites, discuss preventive strategies, and review or revise locator maps and the emergency action plan.
Staying Safe: Don’t Be a Target for Crime
You must be prepared to take on a large degree of responsibility for your own safety. Only you can make yourself less of a target, ensure that your home is secure, and develop relationships in your community that will make you an unlikely victim of crime. In coming to Ethiopia, do what you would do if you moved to a new city in the United States: Be cautious, check things out, ask questions, learn about your neighborhood, know where the more risky locations are, use common sense, and be aware. You can reduce your vulnerability to crime by integrating into your community, learning the local language, acting responsibly, and abiding by Peace Corps policies and procedures. Serving safely and effectively in Ethiopia may require that you accept some restrictions on your current lifestyle.
Volunteers tend to attract a lot of attention both in large cities and at their sites, but they are more likely to receive negative attention in highly populated centers, and away from their support network (“family,” friends, and colleagues) who look out for them. While whistles and exclamations may be fairly common on the street, this behavior can be reduced if you dress conservatively, abide by local cultural norms, and do not respond to unwanted attention. In addition, keep your money out of sight by using an undergarment money pouch, the kind that hangs around your neck and stays hidden under your shirt or inside your coat. Do not keep your money in outside pockets of backpacks, in coat pockets, or in fanny packs. And always walk with a companion at night.
Peace Corps/Ethiopia has developed a comprehensive Volunteer safety and security handbook that will be issued to you when you arrive in-country.
Preparing for the Unexpected: Safety Training and Volunteer Support in Ethiopia
The Peace Corps’ approach to safety is a five-pronged plan to help you stay safe during your two-year service and includes the following: information sharing, Volunteer training, site selection criteria, a detailed emergency action plan, and protocols for addressing safety and security incidents. Ethiopia’s in-country safety program is outlined below.
The Peace Corps/Ethiopia office will keep you informed of any issues that may impact Volunteer safety through information sharing. Regular updates will be provided in Volunteer newsletters and in memorandums from the country director. In the event of a critical situation or emergency, you will be contacted through the emergency communication network. An important component of the capacity of Peace Corps to keep you informed is your buy-in to the partnership concept with the Peace Corps staff. It is expected that you will do your part in ensuring that Peace Corps staff members are kept apprised of your movements in-country so that they are capable of informing you.
Volunteer training will include sessions on specific safety and security issues in Ethiopia. This training will prepare you to adopt a culturally appropriate lifestyle and exercise judgment that promotes safety and reduces risk in your home, at work, and while traveling. Safety training is offered throughout service and is integrated into the language, cross-cultural aspects, health, and other components of training. You will be expected to successfully complete all training competencies in a variety of areas, including safety and security, as a condition of service.
Certain site selection criteria are used to determine safe housing for Volunteers before their arrival. The Peace Corps staff works closely with host communities and counterpart agencies to help prepare them for a Volunteer’s arrival and to establish expectations of their respective roles in supporting the Volunteer. Each site is inspected before the Volunteer’s arrival to ensure placement in appropriate, safe, and secure housing and worksites. Site selection is based, in part, on any relevant site history; access to medical, banking, postal, and other essential services; availability of communications, transportation, and markets; different housing options and living arrangements; and other Volunteer support needs.
You will also learn about Peace Corps/Ethiopia’s detailed emergency action plan, which is implemented in the event of civil or political unrest or a natural disaster. When you arrive at your site, you will complete and submit a site locator form with your address, contact information, and a map to your house. If there is a security threat, you will gather with other Volunteers in Ethiopia at predetermined locations until the situation is resolved or the Peace Corps decides to evacuate.
Finally, in order for the Peace Corps to be fully responsive to the needs of Volunteers, it is imperative that Volunteers immediately report any security incident to the Peace Corps office. The Peace Corps has established protocols for addressing safety and security incidents in a timely and appropriate manner, and it collects and evaluates safety and security data to track trends and develop strategies to minimize risks to future Volunteers.
See also: Ethiopia