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A Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Suhul Hospital

It was Rahel Beyan’s lifelong ambition to nurse people back to health. In Tigray, Ethiopia, where she lives, she’s been working as a nurse alongside VSO volunteer Miriam Etter to improve conditions at the Suhul hospital – making her dream a reality.  

Rehal Beyan, ethiopia VSO/Paul James Driscoll

Rahel Beyan at work in the NICU at Suhul hospital

Whilst rates of infant mortality are dropping across the world, the statistics appear to be less positive for newborns. Around 43% of all under-five’s deaths are newborns, with 73% of neonatal deaths occurring within the first week of life.  

Rahel tells her story:

"I wanted to go into medicine because I always liked the idea of nursing. Even when I was a child it was my favourite pastime. I dreamt of being a nurse when I grew up. Now I get to treat ill patients everyday and making them better makes me happy. 

When I first came to Suhul Hospital, there was no separate room for mothers and babies. They were with the other adults on the ward.

I was just like any other nurse, with no specialist training. 

When they told us a VSO volunteer was coming to work with us, I immediately said I wanted to work with them. I was happy to do that. The other nurses were to shy or couldn’t speak English, but I could speak a little bit. 

Then I went on some training so I could work on the new Neonatal Intensive Care Unit that we were going to set up - it would separate the mothers and babies in their own ward. 


Before that, if a baby was hypothermic or lacked oxygen, there was nothing we could do.  There weren’t enough facilities - only one incubator that we didn’t know how to use or how to put children inside. 

Then VSO came here, and we got training and the additional facilities. Now we can give them oxygen and medicine - it’s simpler. Babies would have died before and now they are more likely to survive. 

Miriam Etter and Rehal Benyan. ethiopia VSO/Paul James Driscoll

VSO volunteer Miriam Etter has been working alongside five dedicated NICU nurses including Rahel at Suhul hospital 

I like Miriam Etter, our VSO volunteer very much. I’ve learned many things from her. If she hadn’t have come to this hospital then I wouldn’t like being here. She’s is such a hard worker so I want to be like her.

We’d like more support. More support means we can build more ICUs and treat more babies in Ethiopia.  

I want to say thank you to VSO, their mission and to Miriam. She works so hard and she’s shown us how to take care of our patients. "


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