Eritrea has made great strides in health care, especially in the reduction of maternal and child mortality as well as the reduction of the rate of non-communicable diseases, that have earned it good reputation internationally. It has been on track to achieve the grand goals in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by ensuring even distribution of healthcare services across the country.
The SDGs, which are designed to be achieved by 2030, mainly focus on the eradication of poverty, illiteracy and illness at a global level. The strategic global agenda is to ensure that people on the planet live in peace, prosperity and partnership.
The sustainable development goal is an extension of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) charted out to be achieved in the period from 2000 to 2015 to ensure that all people around the world have access to basic health care and global health coverage as well as strengthening health system.
The targeted SDGs include healthcare, environment, education, gender equality, and eradication of poverty, hygiene and potable water supply, renewable energy, invention, infrastructural development, social and economic transformation, among others. Eritrea, which has been registering steady progress in various domains, excels in SDG target three, which is related to efficient healthcare service.
Efforts that have been made in improving healthcare delivery since Eritrea's independence have been reinforced to meet the MDGs. Eritrea mapped out a strategic 2010- 2020 plan and a reinforcement plan that covers the period from 2017 to 2021 tied to the implementation of the SDGs.
The country revised its healthcare provision policy and charted out a 10-year strategic plan for 2021-2030. Meanwhile an assessment on the progress of the mapped out plan was carried out and some guidelines have been revised.
Ensuring societal wellbeing through awareness raising and prevention mechanisms, prenatal and postnatal care, supporting those who cannot pay for healthcare service are included in the comprehensive provision of universal healthcare service to all. To meet the envisaged goal, healthcare service in Eritrea is given with a nominal price to those who can afford it while it is given free of charge to those who cannot.
Health security is ensured through efficient service and by sustaining the gains so far achieved.
Immunization services against contagious diseases have been carried out, the securing of food and medicine has been ensured, prevention against antimicrobial resistance has been reinforced through awareness campaigns, and committees and taskforces have been formed to increase prevention capabilities by mobilizing resources.
Human resource development and enhancing the national laboratory have been among the most regular activities of the Ministry of Health (MoH). Dr. Tewelde Yohannes, Director of Policy and Planning at the Ministry of Health said that a precaution has been made to prevent an outbreak of any contagious disease by reinforcing the control mechanisms along the land, aviation and maritime entry routes.
Ensuring the hygiene of potable water, reinforcing maternal and child healthcare services and nutrition, improving organizational capacity, equipping healthcare centers with facilities have been among the priorities in the provision of universal healthcare service.
Eritrea has been registering remarkable progress in its health care provision in the last 30 years and its endeavors to ensure safe and quality healthcare service continues to show steady progress. Considering that the societal well-being cannot be ensured without ensuring the safe delivery of services, the MoH has been working in partnership with the ministries of Education, Land, Water and Environment, National Development, Finance, Local Government and the Marine Resources.
Preventing FGM has been included in the comprehensive package designed to ensure societal well-being and the MoH carried out extensive campaigns to stop such a practice. The country issued a proclamation in 2007 in an attempt to stop FGM.
The MoH works in collaboration with the National Union of Eritrean Women and the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare in stopping FGM and preventing underage marriages. The progress made so far is so encouraging that many sub-zones in all regions of the country have reported zero FGM cases. A report in 2018 shows that FGM has been reduced to below 1% in children under five years of age.
Through an even distribution of health care facilities the MoH has been working in preventing maternal and child mortality, HIV/ AIDS, Malaria, TB and other communicable diseases as well as in preventing death, in general, and complications that could result from non-communicable diseases.
Dr. Tewelde said that necessary precautionary measures have been taken to prevent diseases and deaths that may occur due to problems of hygiene, malnutrition, climate change and accidents. The MoH has also been working to develop further its capacity to combat any occurrence of a pandemic.
Eritrea's primary focus in its health care policy has been the prevention and control of communicable diseases. Since the developments registered in line with MDGs and SDGs also include prevention and control of non-communicable diseases, the country's healthcare delivery system was upgraded and healthcare policies have been revised to correspond with the new developments.
According to Dr. Tewelde, the major achievements registered in the provision of healthcare services are spectacular, particularly in the reduction of the death rates of mothers and children.
The ratio of maternal death that was 1000 out of 100,000 in 1991 has declined to 485, and infant death rate that was 117 out of one thousand decreased to 44, and under 1 year old child death rate that was 151 out of 1000 declined to 33, Mr. Tewelde added.
Eritrea has reached 95% coverage in prenatal care while vaccination coverage is now over 94%. This has also been maintained since the outbreak of COVID-19, which has been managed through the strict measures adopted by the Government to prevent the spread of the disease.
The rate in the prevalence of HIV/ AIDS has also dramatically decreased that only 0.18% of pregnant women that have undergone tests were found HIV positive. Malaria is no longer a public health threat and TB has been decreased to the lowest level. All these figures show the steady progress the country has been making in healthcare service and efforts continue to be made for greater achievements.