Current Weather
The Spy FM

Clinics Come To The Rescue Of Ethiopia’s Overworked Donkeys

Filed by KOSU News in World News.
January 10, 2013

In Ethiopia, the donkey is more than just a beast of burden.

The East African nation is home to more than 6 million donkeys and comes second only to China in global donkey sales. The country is both donkey heaven and donkey hell, but though the animal is highly prized, it can also be mistreated.

“In Ethiopia, there’s a good saying: ‘A farmer without a donkey is a donkey himself,’ ” says Bojia Endebu, a veterinary surgeon and seasoned donkey doctor. “Because the donkey does lots of work, so they are very valuable for Ethiopian farmers.”

Endebu is in charge of The Donkey Sanctuary, which has clinics in four of Ethiopia’s nine regions. The sanctuary began operating in 1986, and now offers free treatment at two stationary and seven mobile clinics.

“I can say donkeys are the backbone of transport in the rural community of Ethiopia,” he says. “The objective of The Donkey Sanctuary … is to improve the quality of life of the donkey in Ethiopia.”

Donkeys In The City

On the outskirts of the capital, Addis Ababa, in the high-density Markato neighborhood, you have to take care not to bump into donkeys. They’re everywhere; trotting with loads on their backs in the middle of traffic, the donkeys seem oblivious of cars, humans and building sites.

The presence of the donkeys is like a time warp in stark contrast to a city that is modernizing dramatically.

At a huge wholesale grain market in Markato, smallish donkeys do the heavy lifting, going back and forth between the wholesale and retail customers. Tucked a half-mile away from the busy market, Dr. Chala Chaburte and his team have begun a day of consultations at the Markato Donkey Clinic.

Chaburte says he owes a personal debt of gratitude to donkeys, because the work of his family’s two donkeys helped pay his medical school fees.

“I love donkeys, because I grew up in the countryside. I know the contribution of donkeys in my life,” Chaburte says. “That is why as soon as I graduated from the university, I joined … The Donkey Sanctuary.”

Donkeys are the backbone of poor people in Ethiopia, Chaburte says, especially poor farmers. But because they work so hard, they suffer injuries that range from being hit by cars to stepping on nails.

Then there is tetanus, anthrax, hyena bites, back sores from overloading, and colic from the indigestible plastic bags the donkeys have swallowed.

The Donkey Clinic

At the clinic, about half a dozen donkeys — suffering from all manner of ailments — are penned into a spacious enclosure with a large water trough, waiting to be seen by Chaburte. Countrywide, the clinics treat an average of 400,000 donkeys each year.

“[There are] a lot of problems here in Addis [Ababa], especially, because of the people,” he says. “[They] do not give attention for their animals. As a culture they accept it that donkeys can carry or resist every problem.”

Chaburte says they work to educate owners and donkey drivers to change their attitudes. It is well-known that donkeys are the most neglected animals in the country, he says, and The Donkey Sanctuary is the only place that helps them.

“The intervention of The Donkey Sanctuary brought a big change to the attitude of the people, as well as on the health and welfare of the donkeys,” he says.

Tadesse Kasa, a tall man with crooked teeth and a disarming smile, brought his donkey, Bula, for examination and treatment. The doctor says the donkey is lame because of small stones and sharp materials lodged in its hoof. The hoof is scraped out, cleaned with iodine and strapped up.

Kasa and other owners say that donkeys are their good friends.

“We work with them and get our income from our donkeys, because they transport our loads,” he says. “Donkeys are very important to our families. Without them, we wouldn’t be here, so it’s our responsibility to make sure our donkeys are in good health.” [Copyright 2013 National Public Radio]

Leave a Reply

5AM to 9AM Morning Edition

Morning Edition

For more than two decades, NPR's Morning Edition has prepared listeners for the day ahead with two hours of up-to-the-minute news, background analysis, commentary, and coverage of arts and sports.

Listen Live Now!

9AM to 10AM The Takeaway

The Takeaway

A fresh alternative in morning news, "The Takeaway" provides a breadth and depth of world, national and regional news coverage that is unprecedented in public media.

View the program guide!

10AM to 11PM On Point

On Point

On Point unites distinct and provocative voices with passionate discussion as it confronts the stories that are at the center of what is important in the world today. Leaving no perspective unchallenged, On Point digs past the surface and into the core of a subject, exposing each of its real world implications.

View the program guide!

Upcoming Events in your area (Submit your event today!)

Streaming audio and podcasts

Stream KOSU on your smartphone

Phone Streaming

SmartPhone listening options on this page are intended for many iPhones, Blackberries, etc. with low-cost software applications available to listen to our full-time web streams, both News on KOSU-1 and Classical on KOSU-2.

Learn more about our complete range of streaming services

We're perfecting the patient experience - Stillwater Medical Center