Update from Ethiopia

The second year of our project with the Family Guidance Association of Ethiopia (FGAE) in the impoverished Malga district in the south of the country has been very successful.  

With funds from Comic Relief, we have been working with 174 women’s groups with nearly 9,000 attendees and have reached nearly a third of all pregnant women in the catchment area.  The number of women seeking healthcare while pregnant has increased and the quality of health services has improved.  

Group members have worked hard during their meetings, identifying and prioritising maternal and child health problems and working on ways to address them. Lack of money is at the base of a lot of problems and some groups have already established joint funds to support the costs of transport to health centres, as well as items they will need during childbirth and for their newborn babies.

To facilitate learning on a wider scale and help women get to the health services, FGAE has helped organise exchange visits between groups so members of different groups can share what they’ve learnt and support each other.  

In addition to supporting women’s groups, FGAE has been busy with other work including helping to develop an effective community based referral system so women and children from remote villages can access the project ambulance and get to health facilities.  Quarterly meetings have also been held between the Health Extension Workers (HEWs - community health workers) and 174 group representatives.  The meetings provided a forum for social accountability, with group members raising concerns regarding maternal and child health service quality and accessibility and successfully lobbying for HEWs to take responsibility for making the necessary improvements.  The meetings were an important bridge to improve communication and linkages between communities and the health service.

Another component of the project that has worked particularly well is monthly radio programmes, broadcast in the local Sidama language. Topics covered in the broadcasts correspond to those covered by women’s groups meetings, so they provide a stimulus for further discussion and understanding within the women’s groups. In future, the radio programmes will be used to share success stories among the groups.