In 2009, Dr. Marinus Koning of Bend visited Ethiopia and saw the how many underserved people needed health care. To help, Koning founded the Reach Another Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides better health care services in sub-Saharan Africa.
Last week, the foundation announced the launch of a five-year fundraising drive to raise enough money to help 5,000 hydrocephalic babies in Ethiopia by 2019.
“In 2009, there was only one brain surgeon for 90 million people in Ethiopia,” Koning said Sunday. “You can imagine that guy was so overworked that nothing much happened.”
About 2,500 babies are born in Ethiopia each year with hydrocephalus, better known as water on the brain. It takes a simple surgical procedure and when treated early the baby can expect to live a normal life.
“What they didn’t realize in Ethiopia is what we’ve known for a long time. If you put a shunt in the brain to get rid of the excess pressure on the brain, then those children can live a normal life,” Koning said.
On Saturday night, St. Charles Bend held a benefit and a silent auction was held, generating $50,000, which Koning called “pretty amazing.” That amount of money will help 400 babies.
The event was called “A Night In Ethiopia” and was hosted Dr. Hagos Biluts, a pediatric neurosurgeon and chairman of the Hydrocephalus Campaign in Ethiopia, who is visiting Bend.
Hagos is one of, at present, six neurosurgeons in Ethiopia, a country of 90 million people. He says they need any and all help they can get.
“You can donate, and not in terms of money, you can put your knowledge, your skills — a lot of things,” Hagos said.
Koning plans on going back to Ethiopia in April for three to four weeks.
“We help people see things in a better light. We give them hope,” he said. “And it’s not just giving them hope. We give them the expectation that their children will have a chance to live a really good life.”