Tigist Gebeyas is 20 years old and lives in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia with her brother Lidetu and her parents. She began having seizures when she was nine years old, but it was unclear to her family and doctors what was causing them. Following a severe burn accident, additional tests diagnosed Lidetu with epilepsy. Once diagnosed, she was able to take regular medication to better control her symptoms. Lidetu’s condition is not well understood so she has faced a lot of stigmatization and isolation from her neighbours and friends at school.
Lidetu Gebeyas is 12 years old and lives in Addis Ababa with Tigist and their family. Shortly after his second birthday, he fell into a serious coma for two weeks. It was a challenging time for his parents as they struggled to find an accurate diagnosis for his condition. Lidetu’s mother explains that “I thought I was going to bring him home dead, I never thought he would get better.” Eventually, Lidetu was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Managing his insulin intake was initially challenging, but now his mother Zeritu has gotten used to administering the injections.
What the Gebeyas family’s story teaches us
Both Tigist and Lidetu faced severe stigma from members of their community. Neither epilepsy or type 1 diabetes were well understood among their neighbours and there was fear associated with their conditions. As Zeritu, Tigist and Lidetu’s mother, describes: “There was a time when neighbors shunned him from playing with their kids. They thought what he had was contagious.”
The burden that two NCDs can pose within one family is exponential. Zeritu makes and sells injera, the staple Ethiopian bread, to provide for her family. This income goes towards the vital healthcare that both of her children need. However, her annual income is not enough to cover the medicines and transportation to hospital and doctor’s visits that both Lidetu and Tigist need to manage their respective conditions. The family receives support from the Ethiopian Diabetes Association, which has provided tools needed for Zeritu’s business. Yet, the family still faces ongoing financial struggles. Zeritu and her husband work tirelessly to provide their children with all that they can offer. “I wish for them to have the best, and be healthy. I live for them, I do everything for them,” Zeritu concludes.