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

US Gives Malaysia Questionable Upgrade in Human Trafficking Ranks

Malaysia’s upgrade seen as removing barrier to country’s participation in the US-led 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership More

Turkey, US Try to Establish Buffer Despite Differences

Coalition airstrikes in proposed zone would aim to drive out Islamic extremists, allowing targeted area to come under sway of anti-Assad rebels More

Video US: Millions Exploited by Vast Fortunes of Human Trafficking

State Department's annual report calls exploitation 'modern slavery,' brutalizing girls, women into prostitution and forcing men, women and children into low-wage jobs across the globe 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 Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Wini
X
July 28, 2015 12:21 AM
The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Obama Encourages Kenya to Fix Cultures of Corruption, Discrimination

President Barack Obama bid farewell to Kenya Sunday with a major speech at as stadium outside the capital Nairobi where he called on Kenyans to change the cultures of corruption and discrimination that can hold society back. VOA East Africa Correspondent Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video California Towns Welcome Special Olympics Athletes

Cities and towns in Southern California are greeting thousands of athletes who are arriving for Special Olympics, a competition for people with intellectual disabilities. The games will run from July 25th through August 2nd. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, where athletes from Namibia, Singapore and Tanzania got a rousing welcome from local residents.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.
Video

Video Hoverbike Flying Toward Reality

Another long-standing dream of many technological inventors is quickly approaching reality: U.S.- and British-based firms are cooperating in the development of an individual flying platform they call a hoverbike. They say it may revolutionize the concept of flying, including in the U.S. military. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video As Japan Expands Defense Role, Protests Follow

The Japanese government is moving forward with a controversial security bill that would authorize the military to fight abroad for the first time since World War II. Leaders say it is critical to defend against rising threats from China and North Korea. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Japan on the big changes ahead, and the opposition they are drawing.
Video

Video Replacing Poppies with Coffee in Myanmar

The remote mountains of Myanmar’s Shan state are home to the second-largest opium-producing region in the world. After a drop during the 2000s, production surged in the past eight years to feed an increasing demand for heroin in China. But farmers are now making less on the crop, and the U.N. is hoping many will make the switch to growing coffee. Daniel de Carteret reports for VOA from Taunggyi.

VOA Blogs