Poverty & Healthcare

A shortage of facilities...

Ethiopia’s towns and cities have hospitals and clinics with full-time staff and doctors. However, over four-fifths of Ethiopians live in rural areas, where it can be a struggle to access health care facilities.

Free daycare

Daycare and social centreIn the video... Addisu and Habtam visit a day care centre run by SOS Children. Mums can leave their children for free at the centre while they go to work. Without this facility, children might have to accompany their mothers to unsuitable places of work.

A new government programme aims to improve the situation by employing ‘health extension workers’ to operate in rural communities. Already, over 30,000 women have been trained to work in 15,000 health posts throughout the country.

Women are seen as having an important part to play in Ethiopia's development. Women are being chosen for health post jobs, because they are more likely to remain in rural communities with family ties and the care of children.

Female health extension workers are given a year's medical training. Employed in rural areas, their focus is on prevention techniques, administering tests for HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, and treating common diseases such as malaria. Antenatal care is also an important part of their training; the United Nations Children’s Agency (UNICEF) estimates 60 women die every day in Ethiopia from complications related to childbirth.

...and a shortage of medical staff

More doctors needed

A large number of medical professionals left during the communist era and did not return following the regime’s collapse in 1991. Many newly-qualified doctors also leave for better conditions abroad.

For any complex ailments, rural patients are referred to larger clinics. However, options for treatment or surgery can be limited because of a severe shortage of doctors and nurses. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there were only 1,806 doctors practising in Ethiopia (2000-2010), which is less than one physician for every 10,000 people.

With the difficulty in accessing healthcare, many Ethiopians use traditional healing methods and medicines.

Battling the killer diseases...

Common illnesses in Ethiopia include malaria, tuberculosis and respiratory infections. Only around one in ten people have access to proper sanitation, therefore diarrheal diseases and cholera are a constant threat.

In 2009, there were over three million recorded cases of malaria, nearly 150,000 cases of tuberculosis and more than 30,000 cholera infections (WHO).

HIV/AIDS is also a problem, with the last estimates putting the number of people living with the disease at nearly one million. An increase in antiretroviral treatments is believed to be having some effect in controlling the disease. And to combat the lack of trained health-care workers, a free telephone advice service has been set up for carers.

...and dangerous traditional practices

Around three-quarters of Ethiopian women (aged 15-49) are circumcised (according to UNICEF). But over the last decade, various campaigns have been waged against this dangerous practice, which is common among both Muslim and Christian communities.

With better understanding about the dangers of female genital mutilation – which include infertility, infections and a higher risk of childbirth complications and newborn deaths – the practice is declining.

An estimated 40% of girls are now circumcised, though this varies according to region.