YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Ethiopia: Answering an Appeal to the Heart

January 20, 1985|PATRICIA LOPEZ | Times Staff Writer

Arike Logan, sitting poised on her powder-blue sofa, glanced at the gleaming ebony piano, the vases and tapestry rugs decorating her comfortable Ladera Heights home, smelled the frying bacon wafting from the kitchen and felt haunted.

Looking at the photographs scattered across her coffee table, her eyes moistened. The pictures were of children gaunt with hunger, men and women too weak to stand, families waiting hours in line for handfuls of nourishment, freshly dug graves clustered closely together on barren land.

They were pictures of Ethiopia, where Logan and a group of other black Americans traveled recently to catch their first glimpse of a people to whom they have long felt a distant kinship.

"As black Americans, we have a special responsibility to do something," she said intensely, staring at the snapshots she had taken. "To use the many resources we have available, to share some of our wealth with them."

One of the resources needed most is medical care, Logan said, and as a physician, she is attempting to organize a medical wing of the Black American Response to the African Crisis. BARAC was formed last year by a group of black California clergymen to raise relief funds for the 26 African nations facing severe crisis.

Move by Councilman

Other efforts in the area include a move by Inglewood City Councilman Daniel Tabor to establish an Inglewood-South Bay chapter of BARAC, and a two-week rally at Morningside High School to raise funds for Ethiopia.

Logan, an Inglewood general practitioner and regional coordinator for BARAC, said the medical wing will be a joint project of BARAC and the Inglewood Physicians' Assn.

"We don't know how blessed we are here. Yes, we have hunger and poverty, but it doesn't often come down to death here. You can dig food out of the trash if you have to, but you don't have to die. There are no social services there. No welfare checks, no food stamps, no Ralphs supermarkets throwing out day-old vegetables."

Through the medical wing, Logan said, the association hopes to send to Ethiopia young doctors who have just finished their medical training. They would be stationed there for about six months, she said.

As a doctor, Logan said, she saw more clearly than most the devastation that years of drought have wreaked on the Ethiopian people.

"They have one doctor for every 58,000 people," she said. "Can you imagine if I had 58,000 patients? What could I accomplish?

"Ordinary diseases are killing these people--rubella, pneumonia, things you could cure with $2.50 of penicillin. We saw advanced stages of disease you only read about in textbooks here."

Logan recalled walking through a relief camp in one province, overcome by a sense of helplessness at the suffering around her.

A Woman's Plea for Help "A woman fell on her knees in front of me, begging me to do something to save her eyes, because she was going blind," Logan said. "I gave her some eye drops that probably helped, but unless she gets vitamin A regularly, she will go blind, and if you're blind in a country like Ethiopia, you're dead.

"Each day we tried to take in 50 of the sickest people for medical treatment, but there were 20,000 people at the camp, and most of them needed some kind of medical attention. A thousand people died every day that I was there.

"We had to pass over babies that you knew were too sick to make it even one more day. It was tough to look at the faces of the mothers whose babies you had skipped. While I was there, one mother killed her three children because she couldn't stand to see them starve to death."

Logan said she recalled one morning in particular, when she joined a BARAC film crew to capture scenes of refugees streaming into the camp.

"We tried to sleep out there, but we were awakened by this loud moaning and groaning--thousands of people crying and praying and rocking their children in the pitch blackness. I dreamed about that for a long time when I came back," she said softly.

Logan said that in addition to organizing the medical wing, she also will be involved with Councilman Tabor in organizing the local BARAC chapter.

Tabor said that while planning for the chapter is in its infancy, he hopes to have a meeting of key people in February to set up activities.

"This crisis in Ethiopia is very close to my heart," he said, "because I subscribe to the philosophy that Africa is the homeland of my forefathers and I have a responsibility to see that it is not destroyed, but that it flourishes.

Educational Tool

"We see the BARAC chapter in Inglewood not just as a fund-raising organ, but as an educational tool to sensitize people to the plight of East Africans facing famine."

To that end, Tabor said the chapter will work with churches, local businesses and such service clubs as Kiwanis Club of Imperial-Crenshaw, which is already planning to sponsor a fund-raising raffle within the next couple of months.

Los Angeles Times Articles