The Experience of Mission Hospitals in Southern Ethiopia in Identifying and Responding to Infectious Disease Outbreaks


  • Bernt Lindtjorn Center for International Health, University of Bergen
  • Thor Henrik Henriksen Vestfold Hospital Trust, Tönsberg



Mission hospitals, Emerging infections, epidemics, Ethiopia


Emerging infectious diseases and epidemics are often seen at mission health institutions. Work at such Christian institutions seeks to practice holistic medicine, and the core priorities included dedicated clinical care combined with community responsibility. This paper describes some unusual, and some more common epidemics that occurred at three mission hospitals in southern Ethiopia during the last 60 to 70 years. The hospitals covered vast areas and large populations, mostly from poor subsistence farming communities. With great topographical and climatic variations, the catchment areas include multiple climate zones that cause substantial variations in ecology and vegetation, and thus also in disease patterns. Our review is based on personal notes, hospital records, and previous scientific publications. We observed epidemics such as cholera and other diarrheal diseases, relapsing fever, meningitis, gonococcal conjunctivitis, the emerging of HIV and Helicobacter infections, and parasitic infections such as malaria and visceral leishmaniasis. Hospitals should ideally have collaborated with local and national health authorities to combat such events. Unfortunately, that was not always possible because of wars, political unrest or lack of capacity. Sometimes these hospitals did not have sufficient laboratory infrastructure to diagnose infections such as arboviral diseases. More emphasis should have been on enabling the hospitals to both diagnose and control epidemics. 

Author Biographies

Bernt Lindtjorn, Center for International Health, University of Bergen 

Professor in International health at the Centre for International Health, University of Bergen in Norway and at Hawassa University in southern Ethiopia. He still works in the Sidama area, including the YAH. For almost 40 years he was a missionary doctor with the NLM, and from 1997 – 2011 He was leading the organization’s work at the YAH.

He is a medical doctor and surgeon with extensive experience in hospital work, research, disease control, institutional development, research management, and teaching and work in developing countries. His professional profile includes surgery in developing countries, population studies, health services research, maternal and child health, and control of tuberculosis, HIV and AIDS, malaria and malnutrition.

Thor Henrik Henriksen, Vestfold Hospital Trust, Tönsberg

PhD. Department of Microbiology, Vestfold Hospital Trust, Tönsberg, NORWAY


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How to Cite

Lindtjorn, B., & Henriksen, T. H. (2020). The Experience of Mission Hospitals in Southern Ethiopia in Identifying and Responding to Infectious Disease Outbreaks. Christian Journal for Global Health, 7(4), 3–13.