The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.
One of my favorite countries in the world is Ethiopia. I have had the pleasure of visiting four times traversing the north and south and find it gorgeous in so many regions. I cannot wait to go back one day to see all of its rapid changes.
Yesterday, civil servants, volunteers, and everyday people worked together in the Prime Minister’s Green Legacy effort to plant over 350 million diverse, indigenous trees in all regions across the country. The original goal was to plant 200 million trees. That was quickly exceeded by over 150 million more trees planted in 12 hours eclipsing India’s previous tree-planting record. Officials were charged with counting all planted seedlings throughout the country according to the BBC.
Having seen firsthand how Ethiopia has massively scaled their maternal healthcare across the country with frontline health workers it is no surprise this tree-planting effort was a record-setting success. The reforestation initiative was devised to tackle the increasing degradation and deforestation across Ethiopia. The overall goal is to plant two billion plants and is a countrywide effort to help reach Sustainable Development Goal 13 of taking urgent action against climate change.
Liya Kebede is an accomplished designer, supermodel, actress and maternal health advocate. She has been featured on multiple American and international Vogue covers, has appeared in runway shows and major print campaigns for top designers around the world, and is a global brand ambassador for L’Oreal in the cosmetic, skincare, and hair care categories. Kebede founded The Liya Kebede Foundation (lkfound.org) in 2005 with the mission to reduce maternal and newborn mortality. In 2007 she launched the clothing line lemlem, (lemlem.com) meaning to bloom and flourish in Amharic. The line is handwoven in Ethiopia and recently began expanding into other categories while maintaining production in Africa. In recognition of her body of work, Kebede was named one of Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People” in 2010.
These trainees are at a project known as “Connecting 1,500 Women and Girls to the Export Market”. The project was created in 2014 by Ethiopia’s First Lady, Mrs. Roman Tesfaye and trains women and girls to develop skills in industries such as leather, weaving, basketry, embroidery, gemstones, and spinning and connect them to global markets to increase the trade of their goods.
“Ethiopia has ambitious visions and dreams for women,” said First Lady Tesfaye. “We want to see women not only come out from the shackles of poverty but become the engines and drivers of our development.”
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon visited the project during the Financing for Development Conference in Addis Ababa.
To kick off World Health Worker Week (April 5 – 11) we are sharing photos and stories of some of the health workers we’ve met around the world over the years who work tirelessly to keep women, children, and families healthy and most importantly alive.
In the sub-Saharan and Asian countries where we have met these health workers, many of the ailments they treat every day can cause severe illness in their patients and even death. That is why it is important to not only provide the much-needed resources and support health workers need to do their jobs effectively and train many more health workers, it’s also important to thank them for the work they do. That is why World Health Worker Week was started — to celebrate health workers, but also to acknowledge the challenges they face every day and help rally the world’s global health community, civil society, and governments to fix those health worker challenges.
In sub-Saharan Africa, 49 million women use traditional methods of family of no family planning methods at all. In Ethiopia, 39.1 percent of women use modern contraceptives up from 15 percent in 2005. The current low rate of contraceptive use in Ethiopia is a result of a combination of factors: cultural biases as well as a lack of trained health workers that can reach every woman in the country. Ethiopia is Africa’s second-most populated country behind Nigeria with 90 million people and only has a few hundred OBGYNs. There is currently only one obstetrician for 1.8 million women in Ethiopia.
That said, Ethiopia’s federal government has done an exceptional job training health workers since its Health Extension Workers program officially launched in 2003. Now 34,000 women strong, Ethiopians are afforded access to skilled health workers in their villages and cities, but there is still an unmet need for reproductive health and family planning services from health professionals.
The University of Michigan was recently gifted an anonymous $25 million dollar grant to train Ethiopian doctors in reproductive health services. University of Michigan’s new Center for International Reproductive Health Training will train incoming doctors, nurses and midwives in comprehensive family planning services at seven medical schools across Ethiopia. The first phase of the grant will be used to build upon the work the University of Michigan is already doing at St. Paul Hospital Millennium Medical College in Addis Ababa.
“Every day, women across the globe are dying and suffering from poor health outcomes because they don’t have access to high quality, comprehensive reproductive health care,” says Senait Fisseha, M.D., J.D., the center’s director in a statement. Fisseha, who was born in Ethiopia, is a reproductive endocrinology and infertility specialist at the U-M Health System.
“We are overwhelmingly grateful for this extraordinary grant that allows us to build on our strong foundation of global reproductive health programs and continue to pursue a longtime dream to provide all women a full scope of high quality reproductive health care when and where they need it.”
With a maternal mortality ratio of 420 per 100,000 live births in Ethiopia, family planning services are essential to keep more mothers alive, especially teenage mothers who are not prepared physically to bear children. The average Ethiopian woman has 5.5 childrenaccording to the most recent demographic data.
“Our center will help empower women to make their own decisions about their own reproductive health, thereby choosing whether and when to start a family,” Dr. Fisseha continued. “Our ultimate goal is to help train future generations of capable and competent health care providers in many parts of Africa and South Asia who can deliver comprehensive reproductive health services, and also be advocates for the safest and best health care possible at every stage of a woman’s life.”