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Meet the woman who has saved thousands of babies using string, tape, and her fancy medical degree.

Here's why babies at one broken-down hospital in Ethiopia live longer than many babies in the world.

Meet the woman who has saved thousands of babies using string, tape, and her fancy medical degree.

Dr. Mulualem Gessesse is one of seven doctors in all of Ethiopia who specialize in treating premature babies.

And thanks to her, Ethiopia's been making huge strides in providing sustainable health care to its citizens.

YouTube vlogger and "The Fault in Our Stars" author John Green recently visited Ethiopia to see the people who are making it possible in action.


One doctor, Dr. Gessesse, stood out among the rest.

Dr. Gessesse. Image by John Green.

And she really has her work cut out for her.

Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world. Most people there don't have running water or electricity.

Needless to say, many of the fancy, high-tech medical machines we see in other parts of the world are not available.

Which means Dr. Gessesse is basically a modern-day version of MacGyver, only instead of using paperclips and gum to escape from the roof of a building before a bomb goes off, she's using her medical know-how and DIY skills every day to save babies' lives.

Image by John Green

But the lack of resources hasn't stopped Dr. Gessesse from dedicating her life to saving the lives of thousands of Ethiopian babies.

When premature babies are born, many of them need help breathing. To help them, doctors in industrialized countries often use continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines. These machines keep the baby's lungs from collapsing by delivering much-needed air through their mouths or noses.

But Dr. Gessesse doesn't have access to these machines. Once, when she asked for them, an organization delivered 12, which seemed great — but they were all adult-sized, making them useless.

So she created her own.

She made makeshift C-PAP machines for her infant patients using of oxygen tanks, tubing, and water.

Image by John Green

Dr. Gessesse's brilliant idea has allowed her to go from helping just a few hundred babies a year to thousands.

Thanks to doctors like her, the infant mortality rate in Ethiopia has plummeted at an unprecedented rate.

Ethiopia's child mortality rate is the fastest-falling in the world. The percentage of children dying before turning 5 has been cut in half.

Chart by U.N. Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation.

Dr. Gessesse's success is possible in part because organizations like the Gates Foundation and Save the Children are meeting Ethiopians where they are.

Instead of coming in as outsiders and trying to tell the Ethiopian people what is best for them, these organizations are helping to create and implement a health improvement strategy catered specifically to the community's needs.

By working with the community and not against it, health care providers like Dr. Gessesse are empowered to use what is available to them to create innovative ways to save lives.

The reason why Dr. Gessesse does this work serves as a reminder that we're all connected.

When John Green asked why she chooses to dedicate her life's work to helping these fragile lives with so few resources, her answer was simple.

She chose this specialty because she strongly believes that we all have to look out for each other.

GIF via John Green.

She says: "I have many children. Only two biological, but many children."

Hats off to you, Dr. Gessesse.

GIF from "War Horse."

Learn more about the work in Ethiopia to save babies here:

Courtesy of FIELDTRIP
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