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No matter where you are babies draw a crowd. It is no different in Ethiopia at a rural health post where babies are with their mothers for care. At a recent stop at a health post in Hawassa, Ethiopia, one baby girl wore a handmade, traditional bracelet her mother told us keeps away hiccups. Despite the mother’s use of cultural practices she luckily still brought her baby into the health center for preventive medicine and a check-up with the nurses.
Ethiopia is a success story. Through the government, NGOs, and the provate sector ethiopia has effectively reduced the number of newborn deaths from 54 per every 100,000 live births to 29 from 1990 - 2012. That is a remarkable achivement. It’s Health Extension Program, accorsing to Save the Children, is one of the major interventions that is keeping more babies and children alive.
Save the Children just launched its most recent report, Ending Newborn Deaths which lays out a roadmap to drastically decrease the 2.9 million babies that die each year from preventable causes.
In many areas of Ethiopia where traditions still plays an active role in childbirth 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, but the government, through the expertise of NGOs on the ground and locals, have been able to keep more children alive through frontline health workers that check on babies and mothers in the critical period right after birth. It is important for health extension workers to care for 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 work diligently to encourage mothers to take their babies to health posts for regular check-ups or bring them in when their babies are sick instead of relying on traditional cultural remedies and practices.
When I was in Tanzania in October I went into a traditional Massai hut where a mother was inside making beans in a kettle over a red hot fire. The fire was ridiculously hot and I couldn’t believe how the woman and her family could endure the heat and…