Changing attitudes in Ethiopia's pastoralist communities

In Ethiopia, the lifetime risk of a woman dying from pregnancy and childbirth related complications is extremely high. For women living in South Omo and Segen Zones, this risk is greater still. In this highly remote region, 80% of the pastoralist farming communities live below the poverty line, and the need to move herds in search of fresh pasture means accessing quality healthcare is even more challenging. 

This is reflected in the area’s alarming health indicators. Maternal, Newborn and Child Health services lag behind those in the rest of the country and are an urgent priority for the District Health Offices. For instance, immunisation coverage for children in these areas is approximately 30% below the national average.
With funding from the UK Department for International Development, The Pharo Foundation and The Allan & Nesta Ferguson Charitable Trust, Amref Health Africa UK has been implementing a project to improve Maternal, Newborn and Child Health in South Omo and Segen since 2013. 

The Project

  • Increases the awareness and use of Maternal, Newborn and Child Health services.
  • Improves the skills of existing health workers at community and facility level.
  • Strengthens health systems so that more effective services can be delivered to women and children.
One way that Amref Health Africa UK is creating change is through women and girls, who are often the gatekeepers to their communities’ health in pastoralist communities.
For this project, women were involved in key activities, management groups, community conversation and mother to mother support groups. Women also lead steering committees for Health Extension Workers and midwives and take control of project management from the ground upwards. By harnessing women’s power, Amref Health Africa is creating long-term, sustainable health change for these remote communities.
As well as working specifically through women, the project is unusual for Ethiopia because it reaches people with disabilities through regular advice and support to health centres and hospitals. Spare wheelchairs are made available in hospitals and stand by help is available to support those who cannot speak. The project also advises that health centres should be situated in low land or in locations which can be accessed by people with physical disabilities and provides useful advice to community health centres to improve knowledge and change attitudes towards disability rights and inclusion. 
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Ethiopia in numbers 

  • Population: 99.4 million
  • Number of doctors per 1000 people: 0.025
  • Maternal mortality rate (per 100,000): 416
  • Under 5s mortality rate (per 1000 live births): 67
  • Unmet need for family planning (among women 15-49): 22.3%

Our impact 

  • Direct beneficiaries: 9,306
  • Indirect beneficiaries: 61,400
  • Health workers trained: 851
  • Women benefitted: 30,905
  • Children benefitted: 28,284