The power finally came back on today after the whole town of Assosa, the regional capital of Benishangul-Gumuz, was left in the dark for three days. We had a storm roll through that drenched the town with rain starting in the middle of Sunday night continuing until yesterday late afternoon, turning the red dust into a thick, slippery red mud – one that is very uncharacteristic for here in this time of the year. The power in Assosa comes from Addis Ababa, I was told, and the storm damaged a transformer in the next region over, Oromia. Life went on as usual and people adapted. It is crazy to think about how the whole town just continued to exist without power for three days! It really struck me when we were visiting the Assosa town health center today and they talked about how one of their challenges was being without power for the last three days.
Originally constructed for a population of 500 back in the 1940s, the Assosa Town Health Center now supports a population of around 45,000 people. There are some private clinics in the town as well as the general regional hospital, but the Assosa Town Health Center is THE health center for all of Assosa town as well as the 10 surrounding kebeles (villages). It does not have a generator so it has been completely without power for the last three days continuing to provide medical care. Even though the federal ministry of health would like to have more laboratory tested results, the common power outages has forced health services staff to continue to rely on clinical conclusions. For the past three days, staff said that they were able to do the clinical part and rapid test for malaria but waited for any lab results.
It was an interesting juxtaposition to be typing away on my laptop to candlelight looking out to the dark sky to see the stars and Mars shine over top of the mango trees in the guesthouse courtyard parking lot. Even though it was dark outside where the only light was the headlights of the few cars driving down the street, I could hear cheering. We are all without power but the nearby fancier hotel has a generator which they are using to show a Primer League European football (aka soccer) game. Gotta have priorities! We stopped by there earlier this evening on our way back from dinner and all the tables and chairs were full. That TV showing the game was the center of action in this whole town tonight.
** Many thanks to the wonderful Colleen Ross for these pictures. Check out her blog at: http://colleenross.org/**