Humanitarian award of 100,000 euros goes to Medical Director of Attat Hospital, Sister Rita Schiffer

Sustainable Surgical Care in Attat, Ethiopia
Sr. Rita Schiffer

Bad Homburg v.d. Höhe, October 13, 2022 – This year the Else Kröner Fresenius Award for Development Cooperation in Medicine is going to Sister Rita Schiffer from the Medical Mission Sisters, a gynecologist and medical director of Attat Hospital in Ethiopia, for the project “Sustainable Surgical Care in Attat”. At 100,000 euros it is one of the most important and best-endowed prizes in the field of development cooperation in medicine. The award presentation ceremony held by Else Kröner-Fresenius-Stiftung (EKFS) takes place on October 14th in Berlin in cooperation with the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, and in association with the 1st International Conference of Hospital Partnerships.

On a worldwide scale, around 30 percent of all illnesses require an operation to be treated. Roughly five billion people have no access to basic surgical care, above all in countries poor in resources. Dr Jochen Bitzer, in charge of humanitarian funding at EKFS, gives the basis for the decision: “With this year’s choice for our humanitarian award we are honoring a project that is designed for the long term. Lasting basic surgical care is being provided for emergencies in the obstetrical and gynecological sector in a rural region.” The project was nominated by Jugend Eine Welt.

Key point of access for the people in rural Ethiopia
Attat Hospital was founded by the Medical Mission Sisters in 1969. The hospital is located 200 kilometers southwest of Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, in the Gurage Zone, one of the poorest regions in the country. The facility is a key point of access for the people in rural Ethiopia. Each day an average of 370 people find their way to the hospital’s Outpatient Department. The main reasons are problems with pregnancies and births, infectious diseases, malaria and acute illnesses that require operations.

Belaynesh gave birth to her second child at Attat Hospital without necessitating a second cesarean section.
EEmergency surgical officer during a cesarean section

Teaching and advanced training of medical staff
“Within the sustainable surgical care framework we place a special focus on the teaching and advanced training of medical staff,” explains Sister Rita Schiffer. Students at nursing and midwife schools and future physicians complete their practical training in Attat to enable them to perform emergency surgical and gynecological operations, including cesarean sections. “This training program has enormous significance for primary care hospitals in rural regions: it’s the only way that long-term emergency surgical care can be guaranteed for patients in remote areas,” Sister Rita points out.

Obstetrics program
More than 4,400 women were advised and treated in the healthcare program for mothers in 2021. Sister Rita actively engaged herself to reduce the high rate of maternal and infant mortality among births by accommodating women from remote villages and those whose pregnancies were at risk in a house on the hospital grounds (the Maternity Waiting Home = MWH). Today, better possibilities for referrals, the launch of the MWH and round-the-clock on-call readiness for cesarean sections have led to a situation in which both mortality and birth-related complications for newborn infants and mothers – for example the formation of fistulas – occur less frequently. The great effectiveness of the house for mothers with risky pregnancies was able to be documented for 30 years. As a consequence, the Ethiopian government adopted this measure into the national health plan. In addition, the project is actively involved within the framework of an integrative health and development program in surrounding villages.

Future project goals
The prize money from EKFS is intended to be used to finance educational and advanced training along with an increase in wages for the 200 employees on staff; the latter because the momentary rate of inflation in the country makes a normal subsistence level impossible. Medication and equipment for the operating rooms are also supposed to be purchased.

Would you like to learn more about the project?
Watch the trailer in advance:
You can find the film on the award-winner here (available as of October 14, 6 p.m.):
You can find an interview with the award-winner here (only available in German)

Else Kröner Fresenius Award for Development Cooperation in Medicine
The humanitarian award is given once a year for special achievements in the field of development cooperation. Projects worldwide that serve to improve healthcare in an outstanding way are honored. The award-winners’ money is used directly for the projects. Each year a different topical emphasis is stated in the calls for proposals to receive the humanitarian award.

Else Kröner-Fresenius-Stiftung (EKFS) – Advancing research. Helping people.
Else Kröner-Fresenius-Stiftung is a non-profit foundation dedicated to the funding and advancement of medical research and the support of humanitarian projects. To date the foundation has funded around 2,300 projects. With an annual funding volume currently amounting to over 60 million euros it is the largest foundation in Germany that actively funds and supports medicine. You can find more information at:

Press Contact
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Medical Mission Sisters – Holistic healing as the mission
As a Catholic religious order, the Medical Mission Sisters have been actively committed to promoting health, well-being and healing in all areas of life for nearly 100 years in 19 countries on 5 continents in a capacity as medical and social experts. You can find more information at: