Ethiopia’s Maternal and Reproductive Health Care Crisis – Ethiopia
KONSO, Ethiopia – “I was discharged from the health facility after my baby was stillborn without any medicine or treatment. I’ve been bleeding ever since,” Asnaketch said, sitting in her tent at the Haylota IDP site in Konso, an area of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ Region (SNNPR).
Asnaketch, 25, had already lost her first baby after an ethnic conflict broke out in their village, Gerchi, in the Konso zone. “The whole village was burned down. When the clashes broke out, we had to move here,” says Asnaketch, visibly in pain. “I lost my first son to a complication during our escape.”
The most recent conflict in the region, in November 2020, killed dozens of civilians and displaced more than 100,000 people. Across the region, nearly 230,000 displaced people live in makeshift and unsanitary camps with limited access to basic services and life-saving health care.
The nearest health facility is a grueling two-hour trek from Haylota IDP camp through mountainous terrain. “They carried me on a wooden stretcher all the way,” recalls Asnaketch. “I knew something was wrong with my baby.”
High-Risk Women and Newborns
Reproductive health services in the SNNPR were already overstretched before the conflict-induced crisis, which more than 2 million people in need humanitarian aid. Health services have been hit by a severe shortage of service providers, lack of supplies and equipment, and damage to facilities.
Like Asnaketch, many families mourned the dead in the camp. “More women have lost their babies in recent months,” said an official at the Haylota IDP site, whose identity is withheld for protection. “It’s a huge but unrecognized tragedy.”
“Providing basic emergency obstetric and neonatal care is a challenge. We also cannot offer assisted vaginal birth. There are no medicines, equipment or even mattresses,” the director of Segen Health Center in Segen Town said during a rapid assessment conducted by UNFPA.
Despite the critical importance of antenatal and postnatal care services in reducing maternal and neonatal mortality and morbidity, services are minimal or non-existent due to conflict, exposing mothers and newborns to serious risks.
Thousands of women and girls need maternal and reproductive health care support
Across the SNNPR, out of more than 110,000 pregnant women, almost 17,000 are valued experience some type of obstetric complication with life-threatening consequences. More than 55,000 women and girls are expected to seek care related to sexual violence.
In 2021, UNFPA provided 17 health facilities with emergency reproductive health kits, capacity building training for medical staff and two ambulances to provide faster response to manage obstetric complications in the area conflict-affected Gedeo in SNNPR and West Guji area in Oromia region. In addition, UNFPA has established Adolescent and Youth Centers and Centers to provide youth-friendly integrated sexual and reproductive health services.
Nevertheless, increased support is needed to meet the urgent needs of women and girls affected by conflict and climate-related crises. the Appeal for $20 million for UNFPA’s humanitarian response will help strengthen the health system and build capacity for maternal and reproductive health services in SNNPR and seven other regions until the end of the year.