Ethiopia’s model families hailed as agents of social transformation

Ethiopia is boosting its healthcare statistics by enouraging rural households to adopt and disseminate a range of good habits

by The Guardian

Wudinesh Demisse, right, and her model family, part of the Ethiopia’s so-called health development army. Photograph: Lauren McKown/Pathfinder International

Wudinesh Demisse raises her hand above her head, showing off the matchstick-sized birth-control implant embedded just beneath the skin of her upper arm.

Wudinesh, 28, is a farmer in rural West Arsi, in Ethiopia’s central Oromia region. With three children already, Wudinesh says it is time to stop. “For me, three is enough,” she says, through a translator. “If they are too many, they are too expensive.”

Wudinesh, who lives in a small village 200km south of the capital, Addis Ababa, is one of millions of Ethiopian women who have gained access to modern forms of birth control over the past decade. Today, her local health post stocks a range of products, from condoms and pills to longer-acting injections and implants.

Ethiopia is increasingly touted as a family planning success story. The government, which has made maternal and child health national priorities, is proud of its statistics – the country’s contraceptive prevalence rate, for example, jumped from 15% in 2005 to 29% in 2011 – and says efforts to reach remote, rural areas lie at the heart of its success.

Along with trained, salaried health extension workers – all of whom are female, a step to make families more comfortable with door-to-door visits – thousands of volunteers have been enlisted nationwide in the government’s “health development army”. Read more

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