News / Africa

Ethiopian Women Seek Improved Access to Pre-Natal Care

In Ethiopia, pregnant women and young children face a serious problem: most of them live in rural areas, far from health care facilities. Usually they must travel for hours on foot to the nearest clinic, only to receive marginal quality treatment. For many pregnant women, even that is a luxury.

A model maternity clinic

Mondays are busy at the Fufa village maternity clinic in south western Ethiopia. Mothers from near and far come to this clinic, the first of its kind within a 100 kilometer radius.

Women and children travel on foot seeking medical treatment in Ethiopia
Women and children travel on foot seeking medical treatment in Ethiopia

The hospital has a delivery room, basic equipment and trained professionals - luxuries compared to what was available in the past.

Gebremariam Ayele, a clinical nurse who has been working in the Fufa area for decades, says prenatal care was a much different experience before the Fufa clinic was built.

"We were limited in what we could do. [Before the clinic was built], we sent two health care workers to the villages on foot. They provided vaccinations and antenatal care to mothers," Gebremariam says.

Challenges to rural healthcare

Most pregnant women do not get to proper clinics like the one at Fufa, says Gebremariam.  Many are forced to travel long distances on foot to seek medical treatment, or to forgo it altogether.

Delivery room at Fufa clinic
Delivery room at Fufa clinic

The effects are devastating. The UN reports that Ethiopia's infant mortality rate is 86 out of every thousand, compared to about 6 out of every 100,000 in the United States.

Lack of care can also be fatal for mothers who go through difficult pregnancies or labor. Those who survive have to deal with the emotional scars and physical complications. One of these complications is fistula, a childbirth injury where fluid leaks through a hole between the bladder and cervix or rectum.  It can be caused by prolonged labor.

Mark Bennet is the CEO of the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital, where women who suffer from birth injuries get free treatment. He says fistula often happens in rural areas because women don't have access to healthcare during delivery.

"They live a long distance from a place where healthcare can be provided, so getting transport, getting to a health center in time and getting to a health center that actually has the facilities or the professional staff that can give some assistance takes a long time," Bennet says.

According to Bennet, it will not be easy to improve access for women in rural areas.

"Ethiopia has a big challenge. Building roads to connect rural communities to locations where health care can be provided, that is a big challenge," he says. "Providing education to rural communities is a big challenge. And providing health care professionals to a rural community that is so large is an enormous challenge. Educated people do not want to work in the countryside."

Physician shortage

Ethiopian midwife Mekdes Kassahun
Ethiopian midwife Mekdes Kassahun

Often, educated doctors choose to leave Ethiopia altogether for better-paying jobs overseas. The government is training health extension workers to meet the growing demand in the country, which has Africa's second largest population.

Health extension workers are low-level professionals with some months of training.  Midwife Mekdes Kassahun says these workers can still make a big difference.

"Health extension workers and mobile clinic workers teach mothers about basic nutritional needs during pregnancy," she says.

According to Mekdes, the biggest challenge is raising awareness in rural communities, and health extension workers are helping bridge that gap.

"They grow cabbage and carrots for sale at local markets to buy grain. We advise them to eat vegetables during pregnancy. We also consult them about possible birth complications, vaccinations and PMCT [Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV."

Clinics like the Fufa hospital also focus on PMCT as a big component of prenatal care.

At another maternity clinic, in the town of Durame in southern Ethiopia, farmers Amenech Haylemariam and her husband Desta Tsienew came to visit a patient. Amenech said she is likely to be four or five months pregnant, and intends to go regularly to the clinic.

The government says health extension workers will help out in efforts to expand healthcare access for millions of Ethiopia's rural women, but there is no quick fix in sight.  Poor infrastructure and a high population growth remain formidable challenges.

This is part 3 of our 15 part series, A Healthy Start: On the Frontlines of Maternal and Infant Care in Africa

« Prev: Early Marriage Series Index Next: Pregnancy Spacing »

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Christmas Gains Popularity in Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid