News / Africa

Rural Ethiopians Spread Good Health Habits Over Coffee

The front porch is the setting for coffee ceremonies where women of Dosha discuss new health practices for the neighborhood (VOA/Joana Mantey)
The front porch is the setting for coffee ceremonies where women of Dosha discuss new health practices for the neighborhood (VOA/Joana Mantey)
Joana Mantey
Thousands of women in Ethiopia have joined a Health Development Army to turn the time-honored cultural practice of drinking coffee together into an opportunity to spread the word about better health practices in their rural communities. The army is made up of small groups of volunteers who gather in traditional coffee ceremonies to encourage behavior change among women and their neighborhoods.
 
Women in villages throughout Oromia, the largest and most heavily populated of Ethiopia’s rural provinces, gather and talk over several rounds of coffee served in tiny ceramic cups. The beverage is brewed with locally-grown and unprocessed coffee beans roasted and ground by a local woman dressed in traditional Ethiopian attire. The finished product is brewed over a small lemon grass fire and served to invited guests. They take their coffee with sugar, but no milk.
 
Gossip gives way to talk about hygeine

This long-standing social tradition and source of daily gossip – in a country that claims to be the birthplace of coffee – has become the educational platform used by the local health volunteers of the Health Development Army. They are trained by the government’s vast network of health extension workers to bring behavior change at the community level and whip up support for government health programs.

Datu Badadha, leader of a women’s group that meets for coffee in the village of Dosha, said these educational gatherings allow married women to get together with young women or men in the community for discussions.
 
The leader of the Health Development Army volunteers in the village of Dosha is Datu Badadha. (VOA/Joana Mantey)The leader of the Health Development Army volunteers in the village of Dosha is Datu Badadha. (VOA/Joana Mantey)
x
The leader of the Health Development Army volunteers in the village of Dosha is Datu Badadha. (VOA/Joana Mantey)
The leader of the Health Development Army volunteers in the village of Dosha is Datu Badadha. (VOA/Joana Mantey)
Pathfinder International, an international non-profit, provides technical, financial and managerial support to the Ethiopian government’s health programs.

“The Women Development Army are women that have implemented the health extension program of government very well so that others in their communities can see what they are benefitting out of this health extension program so that they can adapt or adopt what this Women Development Army are doing,” said Tariku Nigatu, who works with Pathfinder International in Ethiopia.

Latrines, vaccines and maternity

“In some households, people would not be using latrines and this Women Development Army member would encourage households to dig latrines and use it," Nigatu continued. "They encourage women to take their children to vaccination. When there are pregnant women they also refer them to seek maternity care from health extension workers and from health centers.”

Tariku added that members of the army are able to interact freely with people in the community because they have a defined physical structure – a mud house with a living room, bedroom and store with separate accommodations for the kitchen, latrine and livestock. A house that fulfills the new requirements is called a model household and its inhabitants can supervise the implementation of health programs in five other homes.

Joana Mantey interviews experts about Ethiopia's volunteer health army
Joana Mantey interviews experts about Ethiopia's volunteer health armyi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

Mesfin Nigussie of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Integrated Family Health Program said, “To be a model household they need to have a latrine, they have to use family planning and their children under one year should be fully immunized. They should have a separate house for living, cooking as well as for cattle. They should also have clean surroundings and eat balanced diets.”

Homes that meet these requirements are awarded certificates. Mesfin said 64 percent of of those in the Oromia region now live in model households, a marked departure from the single huts which used to serve both as sleeping quarters and kitchens.
 
He said the work of the Health Development Army is also helping to sustain behavior change in communities. Mesfin said the role played by members of the army in social mobilization is as well helping health extension workers to concentrate on clinical duties at the health posts.

You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs