March 1, 2020; Globe and Mail

Ethiopian authorities detained a number of medical professionals and volunteers from Canadian Humanitarian for allegedly practicing medicine without the necessary permits and for distributing expired medicines.

In an updated statement from March 3rd, Canadian Humanitarian confirms that “bail has been posted for the organization’s 10 Canadian volunteers, three Canadian staff, and two Ethiopian staff that have been detained in an Ethiopian prison in Gondar since February 29th.” The Canadians are still under investigation and therefore not allowed to leave the country. An earlier statement dated February 29, 2020, reads:

The care [the medical professional volunteers] provide in Ethiopia is the same care they would provide here in Canada. We are vigorously defending the actions and decisions of our team knowing that every decision was made by highly trained and certified Canadian medical professionals and that their mission on this trip was to provide essential medical care to the citizens of Ethiopia who need it most.

Beyond these two statements, there is little information on the identity of those being held, or facts on the matter.

This developing story has soft echoes of NPQ’s recent coverage of an American missionary, Renee Bach, who is also being sued in Uganda for practicing medicine without permission, as well as the death of children under her charity’s care.

Journalist Michael Bociurkiw, being interviewed by Global News in Canada on the developing story, commented that, based on his observations of working with UNICEF and the WHO, “It’s not unusual to use expired medicines in remote parts of the world.” True or not, the statement reeks of the worldview of the Savior Complex and its permeation through the international aid work and news reporting. Notably, in an interview on use of expired medications, Jillian Kohler, director of the World Health Organization’s Collaborating Centre for Governance, Accountability, and Transparency in the Pharmaceutical Sector, said doctors are not supposed to hand out expired medicine.

This story is continuing to develop.—Niduk D’Souza