Australia supporting health improvements in Ethiopia

Media release

14 July 2012

Australia’s partnership with Ethiopia to support improvements in health care is achieving remarkable results, especially for the well-being of mothers and young children.

Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs Richard Marles said Ethiopia had made real improvements in the health sector and was on track to meet its Millennium Development Goal targets for child health.

"We are seeing more women and babies surviving childbirth and greater rates of immunisation of children. There’s been a significant increase in the number of community health workers trained and public health messages are being more effectively delivered," Mr Marles said.

Mr Marles, who is in Ethiopia to attend the African Union summit, visited the Degem district in the North Shoa Zone of Oromia region where he met front-line health workers and local families to see some of the progress being made in expanding services to the rural poor.

"I am pleased to see how Australia’s support is helping the people of Ethiopia and the substantial contribution we are making to improvements to child and maternal health in the region."

Australia is providing $43 million over four years to support efforts to strengthen national health programs in Ethiopia. This is part of a five-year $140 million Australia-Africa Maternal and Child Health Initiative in Eastern Africa.

The report of the 2011 independent Ethiopia Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) documents impressive achievements since 2005. For example, infant deaths have decreased by 23 per cent, under-five deaths have decreased by 28 per cent and the number of women using contraceptives has doubled.

A recent study has shown that improved access to contraception for women in developing countries could reduce global maternal deaths by nearly one-third.

The Ethiopian Federal Ministry of Health’s program, with the assistance of funding from Australia, is widely acknowledged as one of Africa’s strongest-performing central government health programs.

A number of health targets have been established under the program, including;

  • An increase in the number of midwives trained and deployed from 2,002 to 8,635;
  • An increase in deliveries attended by skilled birth attendants from 18% to 62%;
  • An increase in measles immunisation to 90%;
  • A reduction in maternal deaths from 590 to 267/100,000 live births;
  • An increase in contraceptive use to 66%; and
  • A reduction in infant deaths from 77 to 31/1000 live births.

"I have been encouraged to see how Australia’s assistance in Ethiopia is translating into real improvements in people’s lives," Mr Marles said.

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