Mothers in Ethiopia and Newborn Care


No matter where you are babies draw a crowd. It is no different in Ethiopia when we saw babies with their mothers at health posts and centers. One baby (seen below) wore a handmade bracelet her mother told us keeps away hiccups. Despite the mother’s use of cultural practices she still brought her baby into the health center for preventive medicine and a check-up with the nurses.

In Ethiopia the rate of survival for newborns still concerns health officials. 75.29 children under the age of 12 months per 1000 live births will die per Global Health Facts. That is alarming to Save the Children because if the infant mortality number does not decrease the overall number for child mortality will not decrease either. Reducing child mortality for children under the age of five is critical to the health of countries and to the world and is a commitment under the Millennium Development Goals to reduce child mortality by two thirds by 2015.

I am currently in Ethiopia as a guest of Save the Children and its Every Beat Matters campaign to observe frontline health workers and their affect on child survival.

In many areas of Ethiopia where traditional culture still plays a heavy part in child birth and health, especially in Ethiopia’s lowlands and highlands, it is customary for mothers who have just had a child to self-isolate for at least six weeks before being seen by other members of the family and the community. Per traditional culture after the isolation period the baby will be named. Unfortunately many of the health complications for babies occur within the first few days of birth. It is is critical for health extension workers to see the babies and ensure their healthy development. Because health extension workers are trusted community members sometimes they can see a mother’s baby and sometimes they cannot, but they are making considerable progress.

The health extension workers are working diligently to encourage mothers to bring their babies to health posts for regular check-ups or to bring them in when their babies are sick instead of relying on traditional cultural remedies and practices.

This mother in Hawassa brought her daughter to a health post for a check-up. This is promising for the community’s rate of child survival. Photo: Jennifer James

One thought on “Mothers in Ethiopia and Newborn Care”

  1. I had no idea that mothers self-isolate for 6 weeks and can’t even imagine. I had severe postpartum depression after the birth of my first child and it developed right around that time. I know isolation was key as was lack of sleep. I wonder if new mothers in Ethiopia also face PPD as isolation is very hard on a new mom.

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