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The Clinic is in Gubrye, a small market town about six hours south-west of Addis Ababa, on the banks of the Omo River. 

Predominantly Gurage-speaking, the town is also home to Wolkite University and the recently opened Wolkite Referral Hospital.  

The Clinic serves a catchment area of approximately 50,000 men, women, and children. The local population is largely made up of Gurage, with a small percentage of Kembata and Hadiya, but the transient student population of the University come from all across Ethiopia.

Surrounding Gubrye town are many traditional , rural, Chehaguraginya villages, largely unchanged over the years. Several families live together, with dwellings clustered around a central area, used for grazing young cattle and chickens.  


The sahrbets (tukuls), are often divided into two with the cows and sheep in one area, and the family living in the other half. Most now have electricity, or at least overhead bulbs, but water is collected from the river for washing clothes, cooking, and cleaning.

Those living in the villages travel to the town for their healthcare, for education, and to sell produce at the twice-weekly markets. Decisions for the future of the village are made by a committee of elders, lead by the Chief, who is a valued and respected member of the area.  

Traditional healing still exists, with a witch-doctor often living between several of the villages. As well as the witch-doctor, the shey, who is responsible for herbal remedies, there is also the shaman, the shagwara, who deals with the  feared occult aspects of life.


Subsistence farming is the main source of income for many of the inhabitants of the area (over 95%). Consequently, families have very little disposable income, with most of the crops grown used within the household. Fruits and vegetables are also grown, and are an important part of maintaining adequate nutrition.

Most families also keep chickens, as well as one or two zebu cows, with the eggs and milk providing necessary protein. Keyway (butter) and ayway (cottage cheese) are often made from the milk. 

As well as enset (false banana), the staple crops also include coffee, chat, and tef, the grain then used to make injera.


Tef (used to make injera) and enset (used to make wussa) are the main staples of the diet in the area. Eaten as a form of pancake, they are combined with wot, often made with tomatoes, lentils, onions, garlic, and the spice mix berbere. 

Many families are only able to provide enough for one meal a day, and food insecurity is still a problem across the area, particularly with the high dependency on locally grown crops.  Inclement weather conditions have a significant impact on the population of Gurage Zone as a wider area, as well as on those who make a living as pastoralists and farmers in Gubrye town and the surrounding area.


Life in the town remains communal, and often members of wider families live together. The houses are constructed around a wooden frame with a mix of dung, straw, and mud plastered on top. 

Much of the cooking is done on open fires, with food eaten together from a shared platter.


Most households have access to clean water from a tap in the garden of the compound, but piped water within houses has not yet been established.  Sanitation has improved within the town itself, and most houses use outside latrine pits. In the villages, steps are being taken to discourage open defecation, with communal latrine pits built at strategic locations. 

Electricity is provided from the main grid, although this is often unreliable, and the town goes days without any power.

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