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

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll 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.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
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 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 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.

VOA Blogs