Physiotherapy Study and Practice in Ethiopia

September 2018
by: Eden Andom

Have you ever wondered what physiotherapy practice is like in a developing country in Africa? It's not an easy thing to picture.

I'm here to share what it's like to be a physiotherapy student in Ethiopia.

I think you'll agree with me when I say that Ethiopia has undergone some incremental changes of the health sector during the past few decades. One of the major steps was in 2002 when the University of Gondar started providing the courses of Physiotherapy BSc of four years and MSc of two years. Not only was the university the first to begin physiotherapy study and practice, but also used to be the only university offering physio training in Ethiopia until a couple of years ago. Recently, two other universities have started providing physiotherapy education.

As you can see from the scarce number of educational sources, there aren't many physiotherapists in Ethiopia. A study conducted by thte University of Gondar showed that there are approximately 400 physiotherapists currently practising in Ethiopia. That is less than 1%, considering that there's a total of 100,000,000 in terms of population. This has led to a massive physiotherapist shortage, especially to the rural areas of the country.

Another challenge is the lack of public awareness of the practice. As a matter of fact, most of the people in the rural areas go to a traditional healer, affecting the evidence based practice of physiotherapy.

In addition, lack of well equipped practicums is also a challenge we face as students. Even though our university has been teaching physiotherapy for fifteen years, it has a scarcity of equipment and there is a deficiency of updated, well functioning instruments.

I enrolled at the University of Gondar in 2016. To be honest, I didn't have much knowledge about the field before I went to the department's orientation. As I began to dig deeper in the field, I loved that every health care professional helps a patient but physios help the patient to help him or herself.

Physiotherapy Students, 2016

Currently, I am volunteering at a clinic called Droga Physiotherapy Clinic. I met an adorable little girl named Arsema there. Arsema is a seven-year-old girl with cerebral palsy. This sparked my interest on pediatric physiotherapy.

Unfortunately, a specific pediatric physiotherapy course isn't available in Ethiopia yet. Nevertheless, I won't give up as I'll reach out to the global physiotherapist community to acquire the necessary skills and knowledge. Like every developing country, it would be a huge step for the health sector if we could improve the functional wellbeing of children.

In a nutshell, coordinated support and cooperation are sought to transform physiotherapy practice and to tackle the challenges faced by the Ethiopian physiotherapists in this resource-limited country, where physiotherapy medical practice is still in high demand.


 

Hello, my name is Eden Andom. I am a physiotherapy student at the University of Gondar in Ethiopia. If you're interested in contacting me, you can reach me at edenandom746@gmail.com.