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January 28, 2010

Ethiopia Federal Ministry of Health and leading aid agencies call for misoprostol availability in communities as key strategy for safer motherhood

(ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA) On Thursday, January 28, 2010, to culminate a month dedicated to Safe Motherhood in Ethiopia, Venture Strategies Innovations (VSI) and DKT-Ethiopia collaborated with the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) in convening a meeting to disseminate the results of several successful projects introducing misoprostol tablets to control life-threatening bleeding after childbirth, or postpartum hemorrhage (PPH), which accounts for 22% of maternal deaths in Ethiopia.

The all-day event at the Hilton Hotel in Addis Ababa drew nearly 100 attendees, including health care providers representing 10 of Ethiopia’s diverse regions, government officials, and representatives of nongovernmental agencies. The gathering built on the ministry’s theme, “No mother should die while giving life,” and provided the opportunity to share with a broad array of stakeholders the achievements to date in introducing misoprostol to the country’s safe motherhood efforts.  Efforts included the training of community-level Health Extension Workers (HEWs) and traditional birth attendants (TBAs) on the use of misoprostol tablets for control of PPH. 

FMOH SloganDr. Ashebir Getachew presented on a collaborative project between VSI and the Ethiopian Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists to train providers and educators at half of the country’s schools for nurses, midwives and health officers. Sister Aster Berhe reported on the results of the Ethiopian Nurse Midwives Association’s project to train HEWs and TBAs on misoprostol, with technical and financial support from VSI.

Further demonstrating the capacity of community-level providers to partake in the use of misoprostol for safe motherhood, Dr. Amanuel Gessessew of Mekele Hospital shared results of a collaborative study with the UC Berkeley Bixby Center wherein TBAs trained to provide misoprostol properly gave it to delivering mothers and reduced the need for additional medical assistance due to bleeding. Given that 94% of Ethiopian mothers deliver at home, presenters agreed that reaching them with misoprostol where they deliver is essential if the country’s high mortality rate is to be reduced.

Head of the Tigray Regional Health Bureau Dr. Gebre Ab Barnabas said, “My government’s policy, my own belief and the belief of the Ministry of Health is that the TBAs are part of the community. We believe in community engagement, community empowerment and community participation.” He continued, “we need to engage them, we need to give them very safe drugs, like misoprostol, so that at the end of each delivery they could provide [it] and increase their credibility in the community.”

In addition to the scientific and programmatic findings shared, Dr. Keseteberhan Admasu, Director General of the FMOH, Melodie Holden, President of VSI, and Genna Aman, DKT-Ethiopia gave remarks expressing their continued commitment to making misoprostol available to laboring mothers in communities across the country.

To guide the FMOH and key partners at the culmination of four days of discussion, meeting attendees developed recommendations, including specific calls to train HEWs on the use of misoprostol, to ensure adequate supply of the tablets at rural health posts, to scale up clean and safe delivery training including misoprostol, and to educate communities on the use and importance of the tablets as a component of safe motherhood.

This dissemination meeting was funded by USAID, the Packard Foundation, DKT-Ethiopia and VSI.

This work was initiated within VSI's partner organization, Venture Strategies for Health and Development.

More on VSI's Ethiopia Program

Dr. Gebre Ab Barnabas, Tigray Regional Health Bureau, on misoprostol distribution by traditional birth attendants

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