14 September 2013

Ethiopia: UNICEF - Ethiopia Set to Achieve MDG Four

Photo: Médecins Sans Frontierès
A group of mothers with their children line up to receive their drugs at a hospital pharmacy in Bossangoa, in the northwest region.

Ethiopia's far-reaching health workers programme has helped reduce child mortality across the country, UNICEF has said.

The effort to deploy health workers to even the most remote parts of the country has helped bring about a steep reduction in child mortality, UNICEF stated in a press release it posted on its website on Friday.

According to UNICEF, Ethiopia reduced its under-5 mortality by two thirds between 1990 and 2012 - the required reduction for meeting the target of Millennium Development Goal 4.

In 1990, the under-5 mortality rate was one of the highest in the world at 204/1,000 live births; by 2012, this rate had been slashed to 68/1,000 live births.

For a country that once made headlines for famine, poverty and war, Ethiopia is gaining a reputation as a development leader on the African continent.

In just over 10 years, the country has slashed child mortality rates by half, rising in global rank from 146 in 2000 to 68 in 2012. More money is being spent on health care, poverty levels and fertility rates are down, and twice as many children are in school.

Even in remote parts of the country, such as the Gambella region near the border with South Sudan, more children are thriving beyond their fifth birthday, and their parents are having fewer children.

It all means that Ethiopia appears set to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

The steep decline in child mortality and increase in smaller, healthier families may come as a surprise to some, but not to Ethiopia's Minister of Health, Dr. Kesetebirhan Admasu.

He credits the turnaround to a mixture of targeted policies and the 38,000 health extension workers the Government has deployed throughout the country, trained, equipped and supported by UNICEF.

"Our government has a policy of reaching the hard-to-reach parts of the country and focusing on prevention of disease, health promotion and transferring responsibility to individual families," he says.

"To do that, we designed a community health extension programme, our flagship programme."

Dr. Kesete believes the community health workers have led the way to achieving major reductions in child and maternal mortality.

And he adds that Ethiopia's advances demonstrate that even poor countries can deliver for children.

"With commitments of governments and the community, it is really possible to make a difference and to save the lives of millions of children and mothers across Africa," he says.

Source: UNICEF

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