A Health Centre typically has a staff of about twelve nurses, midwives, pharmacists and technicians. Together with its satellite Health Posts it serves a population of up to 25,000 people.
Jidda's first Health Centre at Sirti, the only town, came into operation in 2008.
When we were shown around in late 2009 much of the most important equipment was in place. There was a reasonable stock of basic drugs but very little furniture.
Initially it was the only health centre for the population of 56,000 but since then two others have been built and come into operation.
The health centres are on all-weather gravel roads and there is now an ambulance that can get patients to the nearest small hospital (and doctor) 90 minutes drive away.
Patients get to the health centres on foot or on by stretcher.
When we asked the staff in 2009 what they felt was the most important need they were clear that it was effective facilities for disposal of clinical waste. This is important for their own safety.
In 2010 we funded a waste incinerator and placenta disposal pit.
Though not the most exciting first involvement there was a clear need and it allowed us to test out the local procedures.
The 'deliverables' were fixed items that we could go and look at each time we visit and for which there are World Health Organisation specifications.
The construction contract was put out to tender by the local administration. They did the paperwork, our agent paid the contractor and kept an eye on things.
In subsequent years our help has been by paying for relatively low-cost items such as furniture and small items of medical equipment that will allow staff to do their jobs better.
In 2010 we saw that the foundations were being dug in Sirti for a new wing that would house the maternity unit and a total of 9 in-patient beds.
The clinical beds, funded from a different source, had already been delivered. They were taking up almost all the space in the temporary maternity unit, unused because there was no budget for mattresses or bedding.
We bought clinical mattresses and bedding for the three beds that would fit in the temporary room.
In 2011 the beds were available for use, with one occupied by a young woman who had been brought in to have her first baby.
Outside were her mother and the men of her family who had carried her for 15km on a home made bench seat that doubles as a stretcher (below).
The next year we found exactly the same situation in the other two health centres so we bought mattresses and bedding for them as well.
The health extension workers (at the Health Posts) are working hard to persuade women to have their babies at the health centres rather than at home.
This is a big break from tradition so it helps if basic facilities (such as a bed !) are available. To encourage them the health centres are also trying to make it possible for family members to come and cook a meal or make coffee for the mother.
These efforts are being successful so we are now seeing a need for extra equipment for when two women are giving birth at the same time. In 2014 we funded an extra delivery bed for each of the two newer health centres.
We have seen how the Health Centres have steadily progressed in terms of buildings, staff and equipment since we first visited but because they are supporting a large population with small resources there will always be things where a small amount of extra money can make big difference for them.
All the medical equipment we buy is specified by the local health administration and bought from government approved suppliers in Addis Ababa.
This ensures that maintenance and spare parts are available and that it is what the staff have been trained to use.
SHEPEthiopia is a working name for the "Support for Health and Education Projects in Ethiopia", UK charity No. 1161261
Page updated 01/02/2018