Category: "Health"

Ethiopia achieves development target on reducing child mortality ahead of the 2015 deadline

September 12th, 2013
File Photo: A UNICEF worker measures a baby's arm to monitor its weight. Photo UNICEF Ethiopia/2006/Getachew

Ethiopia achieves development target on reducing child mortality

Sustained government drive brings down deaths among children under the age of five by 67% compared with 1990 figures
By Elissa Jobson in Addis Ababa

The Guardian

Ethiopia, a low-income country in the drought prone Horn of Africa, has achieved the millennium development goal to cut the mortality rate for children under the age of five ahead of the 2015 deadline, according to figures published on Friday.

The statistics, contained in a 2013 progress report, Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed, compiled by the UN children's fund Unicef, the World Health Organisation (WHO), and the World Bank Group, showed Ethiopia has reduced child deaths by more than two thirds over the past 20 years. In 1990, an estimated 204 children in every 1,000 in Ethiopia died before the age of five ; just six countries had a higher rate. The latest data shows that by 2012 the rate had dropped to 68, a massive 67% fall in the under-five mortality rate.

Bangladesh, Liberia, Malawi, Nepal and Tanzania have also achieved the target.

According to the report – which examines trends in child mortality since 1990, analyses the main causes of under-five deaths, and highlights national and global efforts to save children's lives – the annual number of under-five deaths has fallen from 12.6 million in 1990 to 6.6 million in 2012.

Some of the greatest advances in cutting child deaths are being made in east and southern Africa. Between 2005 and 2012, the regions achieved an annual reduction rate of 5.3% – the highest in the world.

In Tanzania, the Help Babies Breathe Alliance has trained and equipped more than 100,000 health workers, resulting in a 47% reduction in deaths during the first 24 hours of life. In Zambia and Uganda, meanwhile, safe deliveries in health facilities have been promoted through the training of hundreds of health workers in emergency obstetric and newborn care, along with the availability of essential supplies and equipment for the treatment of postpartum haemorrhage and eclampsia.

However, there are still some anomalies. Kenya has experienced an increase in the overall under-five mortality rate, from 96 deaths per 1,000 births in 1990 to 108 per 1,000 in 2012. The rise has occurred despite the introduction of free maternal healthcare, and despite some regional success in cutting deaths.

The western and central regions of Africa are making the least progress globally. Almost one in every eight children born there will not reach their fifth birthday and the annual rate of reduction, while increasing, remains the slowest in the world.

Political instability, recurrent emergencies and disasters, widespread extreme poverty, and some of the lowest budgetary allocations to basic social services in the world have contributed to the dismal child survival rates in these regions.

Unicef states that without faster progress in all regions, it will take until 2028 for the world to meet the target on reducing deaths among under-fives.

Government commitment and resources have contributed to Ethiopia's progress on the issue.

"The government has set some very bold and extremely ambitious targets. It has then backed them up with real resources and real commitment sustained over the last 10 years," said Dr Peter Salama, Unicef country representative for Ethiopia, pointing to the country's health extension programme.

"The programme put on the government payroll more than 36,000 health workers and deployed them to more then 15,000 health posts across Ethiopia … That is the single most important reason why Ethiopia has reduced its under-five mortality rate."

Dr Kesetebirhan Admasu, Ethiopia's health minister, agreed. "I believe it is the work of these amazing community health workers who have really put the country to achieve these results," he said. "The key factor is political commitment. With that commitment and with the commitment of the government in putting actual money, real money beyond setting the policy … [it] has helped to attract more donors to the programme."

Salama said the fact that the health extension programme has been government-owned rather than donor-led has contributed to its success, and means the gains made are sustainable in the longer term. But he added that further progress in cutting child deaths will be increasingly difficult to achieve.

"An increasing number of the remaining child deaths [in Ethiopia] are attributed to newborn deaths – those in the first 28 days of life. These newborn deaths are intrinsically linked to maternal health and nutrition [which is] more complicated to deal with because it implies much more high-skilled service delivery. Without addressing this, it's going to be hard to see the same level of progress that has been made in the last decade."

Polio Spreads to Ethiopia

August 22nd, 2013
In this May 28, 2013 photo, vaccination workers give an anti-polio drop to a child in Mogadishu, Somalia.

Polio Spreads to Ethiopia

By Steve Baragona

VOA News

A polio outbreak on the Horn of Africa has spread to Ethiopia.

An 18-month-old child in the Warder district of Ethiopia is the country’s first polio case since 2008.

Warder district is just across the border from Somalia, where 108 polio cases have been reported this year.

Carol Pandak heads Rotary International’s polio eradication program.

“It’s not surprising that the virus is spreading. This area has been considered high risk because of its proximity to Somalia," said Pandak.

A Somali refugee camp in Kenya has also seen 12 cases of the paralyzing disease this year.

The outbreak began in Somalia in May, when a two-year-old girl came down with the disease, the country’s first since 2007.

But this strain of the virus did not originate there, Pandak says.

“That virus comes from West Africa. And so, we need to deal with the remaining endemic countries because that’s where the virus originates. And so, you have to deal with both at the same time," she said.

Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan are the last three countries where the polio virus is still endemic.

Somalia Polio Outbreak Places Ethiopia at Risk

July 31st, 2013
In this May 28, 2013 photo, vaccination workers give an anti-polio drop to a child in Mogadishu, Somalia.

Somalia Polio Outbreak Places Ethiopia at Risk

By Gabe Joselow

Source: VOA News

NAIROBI, KENYA — Somalia’s Ministry of Health confirms there are now 94 cases of polio in south-central Somalia and the outbreak is showing no signs of slowing down. New cases of the disease near the border with Ethiopia have also put that country at risk.

The polio outbreak, first identified in May in the Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya, is spreading throughout Somalia, according to Dr. Yassin Nur, head of immunization at Somalia’s Ministry of Health.

He said another case also has been confirmed in the autonomous region of Somaliland, close to Ethiopia, and could easily be transmitted across the border.

“The risk is there,” Nur said. “Not to mention that Ethiopia is having a very long border and porous border with Somalia and it would be very easy to have the outbreak in Ethiopia.”

Before the new outbreak, polio had been nearly eradicated across the world, with active cases reported only in three countries: Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria.

But the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF said that in May, a two-year-old girl in Somalia was confirmed to have contracted polio, becoming the first case in the country since 2007.

According to Nur, the population of internally displaced people, who number more than one million in Somalia, are most at risk of contracting the virus that causes polio.

The constant movement of people raises the risk of spreading the disease.

“The problem is this movement between Somalia and Kenya, between Somalia and Ethiopia,” Nur said. “Whether they are IDPs or not, the movement of the people is the one that worries us.

Nur is hopeful a vaccination campaign launched in coordination with U.N. agencies, as well as local and international organizations, will be able to “limit and control” the transmission of the disease.

According to the U.N. almost four million people have received a polio vaccination in Somalia since May.

Children are most at risk of contracting the disease, which has no cure and can paralyze those who are infected.

Expanding Ethiopia’s Impressive Successes in Health

March 3rd, 2013

Expanding Ethiopia’s Impressive Successes in Health

Source: World Bank

ADDIS ABABA—The road to Dongore Difurda, a kebele or locality in Ethiopia’s large Oromia state, runs east from Addis Ababa. It is congested with traffic heading to Djibouti and the coast. About 125 km along this road, a vehicle would have to turn off onto an unmarked dirt track, passing donkey carts and grazing camels to reach the main village nestled beneath a low hill.

Amid earthen huts with distinctive conical roofs of thatch, a young woman named Etagegn Gebre surveys a line of patients waiting to see her outside the small one-storied building that houses the local health post. They include a heavily pregnant woman with a toddler clinging to her dress, a farmer with an injured hand, and a man who might have malaria.

Etagegn ushers the pregnant woman into a room with a clean pink curtain. There she swiftly conducts an antenatal check-up, palpating the abdomen and taking measurements and notes. She sends the woman away with vitamins and words of encouragement. Back outside, she disinfects and dresses an injury, and administers a rapid diagnostic test for malaria.

“I like my job because I’m able to solve my community’s health problems and that’s a big thing,” says Etagegn, “What I like most is being able to save lives instead of working solely for the sake of getting money. That’s the pleasure I get in my work.”

Over 35,000 health workers now serving rural areas

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Diaspora Doctors to Start Specialized Hospital in Ethiopia

February 21st, 2013
Photo Ethio-American Doctors Group

Diaspora Doctors to Start Specialized Hospital in Ethiopia

By Marthe Van Der Wolf

Source: VOA

— A group of 150 Ethiopian doctors living abroad are constructing a hospital in their home country that will offer state-of-the-art medical treatment. This new hospital is designed to reduce the number of Ethiopians seeking medical facilities abroad.

The Ethio-American Doctors Group, an association of more than 150 Ethiopian doctors in the diaspora, is realizing its dream: establishing an up-to-date hospital in their homeland that includes a medical school and a medical research center.

Dr. Yonas Legessa Cherinet of the Doctors Group said the new hospital will feature 27 medical specialties that currently are not offered in Ethiopia.

“There are a varieties of fields where service is very limited here. I could mention vascular surgery, urology, pulmonology, neuro-surgery and reproductive endocrinology, which is not available. So many doctors are coming in with so many specialities, there will be a core group of these specialists who will be coming here to lead some departments, to work here,” said Yonas.

The Doctors Group hopes that fewer Ethiopians will go abroad for medical help if they can be treated inside the country.

Currently, many Ethiopians that can afford better treatment go to Asia, the Middle East and South Africa. The Bangkok Hospital in Thailand treated more than 6,000 Ethiopians in 2011 alone. A lot of money is involved, as the average treatment costs about $20,000.

Dr. Zelelam Abebe, who works in a private clinic in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa, said there is a large need for first-class medical services in the country.

"I had to refer several people to hospitals abroad for different cardiac surgeries, brain surgery and advanced cancer cases,” he said.

Dr. Yonas said that providing for Ethiopians who might otherwise go abroad means the hospital will have to be run differently - and better - compared to most other facilities in the country.

“The reasons they mention [for going abroad] vary from the quality of care to the way they are treated in respect. So we want to bring a new culture here of medical care, which will be patient-centered,” said Yonas.

But with an average yearly income of $1,200, most Ethiopians will not be able to afford the treatments offered at the new facility. Yonas said money will be raised for those in financial need.

”We also have what we call the EDG fund, which will be taking 10 percent of our profit for people who cannot afford quality service,” he said.

Tariku Assefa is a general practicing doctor who works at the Black Lion Hospital, the largest hospital in Ethiopia, which also includes a medical school. He welcomes the idea of the new hospital, but hopes the new research facility will focus on diseases prevalent in Ethiopia.

“We use most of the research that were done in the western countries. We take example from America or other western countries because those research is done there. In most of the disease entity we don’t have our own figures, we use the figures of other people, which is somehow biased because the one which is in the West may not work for us,” said Tariku.

The hospital is scheduled to open its doors by 2016 and employ 300 to 400 people, of whom 50 will be physicians. Some doctors from the diaspora will return to Ethiopia, while others will commit several weeks per year to an exchange of knowledge with the hospital