This week I am a guest of Save the Children on an observational trip in Ethiopia. I, along with three distinguished US nurses, are here to learn about Ethiopia’s frontline health workers, the 38,000 women strong health extension workers. The health extension workers were put into place by the Ethiopian government in 2003 and now through the work of Save the Children and other partners, health extension workers can diagnose and treat malaria, malnutrition, pneumonia, diarrhea and can also administer implantable and injectable contraceptives.
You can learn more about frontline health workers on Save the Children’s new site: Every Beat Matters
In speaking with Dr. Birkety Mengistu, the Maternal Newborn Child Health Advisor at Save the Children’s Addis Ababa’s office, we learned that there is an ample supply of family planning options for any woman who wants it. There are, however, cultural taboos about contraceptives causing many women to forego family planning altogether.
29% of married women in Ethiopia use family planning services according to Pathfinder. And according to Save the Children 30 – 40% of family planning needs are currently being unmet.
With the vast majority of Ethiopian still living as subsistence farmers and each woman having on average 4.8 children it is essential for women to not only have access to family planning, but also a shift in cultural imperatives that dissuade women from making decisions about their own lives.
To learn more about Save the Children’s work on family planning read: Every woman’s right: How family planning saves children’s lives (pdf).
Photo: United Nations