Defeating the Enemy of Poverty

Defeating the Enemy of Poverty

An LDP Student in Ethiopia Battles Deadly Strain of Tuberculosis with the Help of Compassion

By: Brandy Campbell, with Daniel Legesse in Ethiopia   |   Posted: July 26, 2007

Endalkachew moved back to his home when he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. He plans to return to college soon, where he will continue his studies in pharmaceuticals.

"Poverty is the wildest enemy man can ever have. I have seen that animal myself and have been combating against it all my life." Endalkachew Fekadu's battle with poverty began when he was a boy, growing up in Ferensay Legasion, Ethiopia. Raised by his widowed mother in the crowded city, Endalkachew recognized poverty as the enemy early in his life. Only an enemy would leave him and his family with nothing, robbing them of food, shelter and hope.

When Endalkachew's mother registered him in the Ferensay Mulu Wongel Student Center, he at last felt he had the tools to battle poverty. But Endalkachew would learn that poverty was a tricky enemy one that attacks when least expected.

Years of Prosperity

Endalkachew entered the Compassion program when he was 7 years old, and the next 10 years were filled with both physical and mental growth. His teachers and tutors recognized the boy's intelligence and encouraged him in his studies. The prayers and support of his sponsor gave Endalkachew the courage to continue with school, even when many of his friends were dropping out to work in factories to bring some money home to their families.

In 2004, Endalkachew became one of the 30 percent of children in Ferensay Legasion to complete high school. Amid the celebration, center workers challenged Endalkachew to apply for Compassion's Leadership Development Program (LDP). Endalkachew was accepted into the program, becoming one of Ethiopia's first LDP students.

The Enemy Returns

Endalkachew enrolled in the school of pharmacy at Jimma University, nearly 200 miles from his home. But just after he began his first semester, Endalkachew began to notice troubling symptoms. At first, he thought a cold was causing his nagging cough. But then came fatigue, coupled with weight loss and fever, all symptoms Endalkachew had seen dozens of times in his village. Doctors soon confirmed what Endalkachew already suspected: He had tuberculosis (TB).

Each year, more than 1 million people die from tuberculosis, mostly in developing countries. The disease can be prevented by a simple immunization, but like many families in Africa, Endalkachew's parents could not afford preventive medicine. Compassion quickly arranged for Endalkachew to begin treatment. After eight months, Endalkachew's condition had not improved. Three more months of treatment still yielded no results.

After more than a year, doctors identified Endalkachew's disease as multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB), which is much more lethal and difficult to treat than most strains of tuberculosis. MDR-TB is increasingly prevalent in developing nations, and the World Health Organization reports that 70 percent of MDR-TB cases now show resistance to three or more drugs. The treatment Endalkachew needed was not available in Ethiopia, and importing the necessary drugs from other countries was expensive. Endalkachew's enemy had returned and this time, it was threatening to take his life.

"I never thought that such a challenge would come against me," says Endalkachew. "My only hope was Compassion. I knew that friends all over the world were praying for me, praying that I would be rescued from the mouth of death. I was determined that I would not let this disease end my life."

A Gift From Above

Compassion Ethiopia's health specialist learned of Endalkachew's battle. E-mails and phone calls quickly passed among Compassion's network of global health specialists. Soon, Compassion Kenya reported that they had found the drugs Endalkachew needed for a fraction of the usual cost.

Endalkachew was quickly moved to Addis Ababa where he was put in the care of a tuberculosis specialist at St. Peter's Hospital. In just one month, Endalkachew's health began to improve. Although his treatment will go on for another two years, he hopes to return to college in the fall. His passion for medicine, and for helping others, has only been enhanced by his ordeal. "Had it not been for Compassion, and my sponsor, by now I would have been turned to dust," says Endalkachew. "Compassion is a gift from God above for children like me. Because God let me live, I know that He has many things for me to do in my life. I am an advocate for little ones in Ethiopia and all over the world."