The Daily Impact: Inside Ethiopia's Push to Tackle Maternal Mortality

February 1, 2013

Ethiopia’s poor health systems are holding back further progress against maternal mortality. IRIN reports:

Empowering women this International Women's Day“There have been interventions, but the impact these have made has not been as significant. The health system is still very weak,” Luwei Pearson, chief of the health section at the UN Children Fund (UNICEF) in Ethiopia, told IRIN.

“There must be efforts to ensure that health facilities are not just available but that they are also functional by, for instance, fitting them with electricity and piped water.”

According to a 2010 report, Ethiopia is one of five countries that together account for 50 percent of the world’s maternal deaths. In 2011, the country recorded 676 maternal deaths for every 100,000 live births, up from 673 in 2005. Ethiopia intends to bring this down to 267 by 2015.

The number of expectant mothers who delivered with the help of a skilled provider rose from 6 percent in 2005 to 10 percent in 2011, according to the 2011 Ethiopia Demographic and Health Survey (EDHS).

Curbing maternal death

Studies show that abortion complications, ruptured uterus, puerperal sepsis, postpartum haemorrhage and preeclampsia/eclampsia were the five major causes of maternal mortality in Ethiopia.

The government says it has established measures to curb maternal deaths, such as the use of a scorecard to measure the effectiveness of the health system for mothers and children.

“The scorecard is a very powerful tool… You can really track at facility, community, region and national levels. So it will also give you the opportunity to make sure that you have an equitable health service delivery system across the country and to try to address the disparities we have in different parts of the country,” Kesetebirhan Admassu, the health minister, said.

Ethiopia’s health extension programme, through which the government has trained some 30,000 lay extension health workers, is also expected to improving women’s access to skilled attendants during delivery.

So far, however, just 1 percent of expectant mothers deliver with the assistance of a health extension worker, according to the 2011 EDHS, largely because there are so few of them. According to the Ministry of Health, these workers each serve an estimated 2,500 people.


Global Health and Development Beat

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Lassa Fever – Two more people have died in the central Nigeria’s Plateau state as the result of a lassa fever outbreak.


The Players

Gates FoundationAnnounced the winner of the second Gates Vaccine Innovation Award, Margarida Matsinhe, for her work in Mozambique.

MSF – Discussions are underway regarding implementing a cholera vaccine campaign in the DRC by the WHO and MSF.

WHO – The WHO issued new guidelines that recommended people consume less than 2 g of salt and at least 3.51 g of potassium every day.

UNICEF – A conversation with UNICEF Regional Emergency Advisor Bastien Vigneau about what children in Syria are facing.


Buzzing in the Blogs

USAID provides a list of ten things that you may not have known about USAID and the State Department. Here are some of the highlights:

3. We promote democracy and foster stability around the world. Stable democracies are less likely to pose a threat to their neighbors or to the United States. In South SudanLibya and many other countries we worked through various means to foster democracy and peace.

4. We help to make the world a safer place. Together with Russia, under the New START Treaty, we are reducing the number of deployed nuclear weapons to levels not seen since the 1950s. Our nonproliferation programs have destroyed stockpiles of missiles, munitions and material that can be used to make a nuclear weapon. The State Department has helped more than 40 countries clear millions of square meters of landmines.

5. We save lives. Strong bipartisan support for U.S. global health investments has led to worldwide progress against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, smallpox and polio. Better health abroad reduces the risk of instability and enhances our national security.

6. We help countries feed themselves. We help other countries plant the right seeds in the right way and get crops to markets to feed more people. Strong agricultural sectors lead to more stable countries.

7. We help in times of crisis. From earthquakes in Haiti, Japan and Chile to famine in the Horn of Africa, our dedicated emergency professionals deliver assistance to those who need it most.

8. We promote the rule of law and protect human dignity. We help people in other countries find freedom and shape their own destinies. Reflecting U.S. values, we advocate for the release of prisoners of conscience, prevent political activists from suffering abuse, train police officers to combat sex trafficking and equip journalists to hold their governments accountable.


Capital Events


9:30 AM – Women’s International Human Rights – Georgetown School of Foreign Service

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By Mark Leon Goldberg and Tom Murphy; Photo Credit

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