Sunday, July 29, 2012

Bypassing Politics? A Meeting with Ethiopia’s President

Mr. Samuel M. Gebru, CEO of the Ethiopian Global
Initiative and H.E. Girma Woldegiorgis, President of the
Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. (Photo: Grand Palace)
Samuel M. Gebru (@SMGebru)
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
July 29, 2012

It was an honor to be invited to the Grand Palace on Friday, July 20 to meet with the President of Ethiopia.

Girma Woldegiorgis, born in 1925, is currently 88-years-old and despite his age and health issues, his passion and service for Ethiopia is as young as my college-aged heart.

When I was told that I had an opportunity to meet with Ethiopia’s Head of State, I readily took the opportunity. While most discount the President of Ethiopia as a mere figurehead resembling Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, I would argue that—just like the Queen—the President is what should hold the national fabric together as head of the Ethiopian state.

In 2010, I mistakenly argued that the government should do away with the Presidency because I thought it had no clear purpose. I have come to learn that it is the President who should inspire a new generation of public servants through his/her own merits. And who better than Girma Woldegiorgis for this role?

Sure, he has had his fair share of health issues and at one point was rumored to have died (although I can assure you that he’s alive and kicking!), Girma Woldegiorgis has the resume fit for the Ethiopian Presidency. Beyond his ability to speak seven languages, of which three are Ethiopian (Oromiffia, Amharic and Tigrinya), the President has been a lifetime public servant since his youth.

As I walked into the Grand Palace, built for Ethiopia’s last monarch, I was stunned by the magnificent Judeo-Christian motifs. From the rugs to the ceilings to the President’s desk, formerly the Emperor’s, the Grand Palace was a magnificent display of the ancient ties Ethiopia has to Christianity, Judaism and Israel.

Already briefed on me, the President expressed happiness to receive someone my age. I told him that it was hard for many like me to be taken seriously because of our age and that one needs old age and a title before receiving respect in Ethiopian society. He interrupted me and disagreed. He reminded me that he was 36 when he became Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies of Ethiopia’s Imperial Parliament in 1961 and that he was my age when he was called to national service in the Imperial Air Force, earning the rank of Lieutenant. 

In our meeting, I briefed President Girma on the Ethiopian Global Initiative’s vision for Ethiopia. He was very happy to learn that the organization’s core is built of students and professionals ranging from 18 to 35-years-old. I informed him how the Initiative aims to increase its presence in Ethiopia and undertake more programs and projects in healthcare, education, civic engagement and economic development. 
President Girma Woldegiorgis shows CEO Samuel Gebru
his Lem Ethiopia membership card. (Photo: Grand Palace)
President Girma is a noted environmentalist. As Speaker of Parliament, he designed the first environmental legislation in Ethiopia—perhaps one of the first in Africa. In March 1992, he founded Lem Ethiopia (The Environment and Development Society of Ethiopia), Ethiopia’s premiere civil society organization responsible for the protection of the environment. 

What impresses me the most about President Girma is his ability to bypass Ethiopia’s unpredictable political system and work with all governments. His transcendence of the Governments of Haile Selassie, Mengistu Hailemariam and Meles Zenawi is truly remarkable—and that he has earned everyone’s respect in the process. 

At the end, I asked President Girma what was the best advice he could give me. He said, “Continue what you are doing in meeting people from all sectors and backgrounds and learn more from them. It is only then can you become an effective public servant.”

I look forward to many more encounters with the President and wish him and the First Lady my warmest regards.

Samuel M. Gebru is 20-years-old and the Chief Executive Officer of the Ethiopian Global Initiative.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Celebrating African Innovation in Washington, D.C.

By: Emily Weinstein (@emyli_rose)
From L to R: Evan Anderson, Senior Associate to the President,
Samuel Gebru, CEO, Emily Weinstein, Project Manager. Credit:
Marie Claire Andrea.
July 20, 2012

The past weekend was productive and gratifying for the Ethiopian Global Initiative (EGI). Following the success of our traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony at the Harvard Yard Starbucks in Cambridge, MA, EGI was honored to host a private reception at former Ambassador to Ethiopia The Honorable David Shinn's residence in Washington, DC. This was a truly great event, and I was thrilled as always to see my friends and EGI colleagues Samuel Gebru and Evan Anderson, President and Senior Associate to the President. I was honored to meet and mingle with prominent American government employees, two generations of Ethiopian ambassadors, as well as representatives from the Ethiopian Crown Council. I recall current Ambassador of Ethiopia Ato Tesfaye Yilma noting "EGI is a pioneer project," aligning our work to the theme of the weekend, which was to celebrate the pioneers of innovative business in Ethiopia. In a later discussion with Evan, I discovered we both shared a sense of pride at the Ambassador's supportive sentiments, as well as Samuel's description of EGI's projects which had inspired them.

Ato Thomas Debass, Director for Global Partnerships at the Department of State, also made an appearance with his wife Gelila Teshome, Senior Contracting Officer at the Executive Office of the President. The two were glad to share stories of their family, and I was eager to listen as they described the joys of raising their children in America, while striving to maintain a strong Ethiopian influence in their lifestyle. Thomas was honored as a keynote speaker the following evening at the 2012 Pioneer Ethiopian Diaspora Business Person of the Year Awards Dinner, where I and Dr. Lemma W. Senbet (who was sitting next to me, I caught him scribbling this quote onto the back of a business card just as I tweeted it!) made note of this profound highlight from his speech: "Africa cannot just be a destination for innovation, but also a source of innovation."

Honored at the 2012 Awards Dinner were Ato Tadiwos G. Belete and Ato Zemedeneh Negatu. The two men were awarded for their contributions to the growing economy of Ethiopia; these ambitious men took major financial risks because they believed Ethiopia was worth their investment. Tadiwos, CEO and founder of Boston Partners PLC has opened many resorts and day spas throughout Ethiopia, providing jobs for locals and attracting tourists. Zemedeneh is an industrious promoter of investment into Africa, as well as an active participant in initiatives showcasing Africa as an attractive investment destination. Both men were accompanied by an entourage of family, including Zemedeneh's young son Michael, who was more than happy to accept his father's award and participate in an EBS interview! In my opinion, young Michael's presence was a fervent reminder of the importance of youth in development, and I couldn't agree more with the notion illuminated by his father:  it is our responsibility to set a stable groundwork for the next generation.

Earlier in the day, both Tadiwos and Zemedeneh were featured panelists at the Ethiopian American 7th Annual Diaspora Business Forum, speaking of their success and the many reasons to invest in the rapidly growing yet largely untapped economy of Ethiopia. Beside them, other panelists included Dr. Lemma W. Senbet, The William E. Mayer Chair Professor of Finance and Director of the Center for Financial Policy at the University of Maryland – among a much longer list of credentials – and Matthew Davis, founder and CEO of Renew, an innovative investment company that "works with development organizations, development finance institutions, NGOs, governments and private investors to facilitate investments into promising businesses in developing countries." Conference attendees ranged from the areas of business, social science, academia, arts and entertainment. I was especially taken by the panel on tourism featuring archaeologist and anthropologist Dr. Yohannes Zeleke, President of the African Travel Association, and photographer and Ethiopian at heart Matt Andrea. An anthropology and photography major myself, I was captivated by the beautiful photographs of Ethiopian people, culture and the country's fascinating landscape. The information in this panel was presented with such passion, it solidified my desire to study abroad in Ethiopia; after all, where better to study anthropology than the birthplace of humanity and religion?

Following a day full of networking and inspiring presentations, Samuel and I joined Marie Claire Andrea and a few friends to relax with some traditional and modern Habesha dancing at a local Ethiopian restaurant. Overall, a fantastic weekend to be a staff member/supporter of EGI!

Congratulations to Ato Tadiwos and Ato Zemedeneh, proof that hard work, determination and faith do not go unrewarded. Special thanks to Ato Yohannes Assefa, who exerted much time and effort organizing the 7th Annual Diaspora Business Forum, as well as Dr. Liesl Riddle of George Washington University, gracious host of the conference.

For more information regarding the mission and projects of the Ethiopian Global Initiative, visit our website. 

Emily Weinstein is the Event Manager for Ethiopian Global Initiative. She is also double majoring in Anthropology and Photography and minoring in International Humanitarian Affairs at Fordham University.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Africa’s Brain Drain: Hopeless to Hopeful

By: Samuel M. Gebru (@SMGebru)
May 25, 2012

This article is an abbreviated version of a keynote address the author delivered at the Minnesota State University, Moorhead’s African Night on February 25, 2012.

“What can I bring to Africa?” “How can I help Africa?” These are frequently asked questions by people who are concerned about the political, economic and social development of Africa. Once dubbed the “hopeless continent” by The Economist, ten years later, The Economist is now correcting itself calling Africa the “hopeful continent.”

All around the world, people are awakening their curiosity to learn more about Africa. Often mistaken for a country, the African continent is home to a rich, diverse and driven people. In this article, I will first examine the causes and consequences of a global phenomenon that has deeply affected Africa known as the “brain drain.” Secondly, I will discuss the importance of the “brain gain” as a reversal to the negative impacts of Africa’s brain drain. Thirdly, I will share why the new concept of “brain circulation” is Africa’s latest weapon for success. Lastly, I will attempt to answer my initial question: “What can I bring to Africa?”

The brain drain is a global phenomenon where large amounts of the highly skilled and talented population of a country leave and migrate to another country for better opportunities. The brain drain is a significant problem affecting many developing countries.

Since the 1960s, Africa has experienced at great numbers the massive exodus of its skilled and talented workforce to other parts of the world. The brain drain occurs in three settings: internally, regionally and globally. On the global level, Africa’s brain drain occurs in two major settings. First is where individuals complete their education in Africa and migrate overseas for various political, economic and social reasons. Second is where African students who study abroad stay abroad after graduation and permanently settle into their new lifestyles. 

In both settings, Africa looses because its skilled population is leaving. In my native Ethiopia, the United Nations Development Programme estimates that between 1980 and 1991 Ethiopia lost over 75% of its skilled workforce. Imagine in just about one decade loosing the overwhelming majority of your country’s talented scientists, engineers, physicians, entrepreneurs, educators and attorneys. Indeed, this is a loss for the continent.

Arguably, the main causes of Africa’s brain drain include economic inequality between Africa and the rest of the world; political instability that threatens the safety and freedom of a country’s skilled workforce; and the colonial legacy and postcolonial mentality of Africa.

Economic inequality between Africa and the rest of the world is perhaps the most obvious reason for Africa’s brain drain. In the internal setting, a brain drain occurs when skilled people move from one part to another, more developed and urban part of a country. Similarly, at the global setting, a brain drain occurs when skilled people move from Africa to more developed parts of the world, such as North America, Western Europe and now Southeast Asia. These people, escaping the poverty and lack of perceived or real opportunities in Africa, find life in their new settings. Because Africa is comparatively underdeveloped and less industrialized, it looses.

Political instability is another obvious reason for Africa’s brain drain. Africa has seen its fair share of political strife, civil wars, religious conflict, anarchy and blatant disregard for human rights and the rule of law. These series of political factors are intolerable to all Africans, but in particular to those that make up the skilled and talented workforce. Bloody wars in countries like Sudan, Liberia, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Angola speed the brain drain by forcing out skilled workers and social activists. 

Lastly, the colonial legacy and postcolonial mentality of Africa strongly contribute to Africa’s brain drain. Because of the hundreds of years that Africa was subjected to a Eurocentric vision of the world, it has now become internalized in many societies that Africa has no returns for the skilled, and that it is indeed a hopeless continent. African professionals want to offer their services wherever they can receive the highest value in returns instead of embracing the Afrocentric viewpoint, which includes service to one’s community, a community-oriented method of living and a strong embracement of spiritual values. This is, of course, not to say that the Eurocentric vision of the world does not include these viewpoints, but I would argue that these viewpoints are central to African societies. Because of the internalization of the Eurocentric vision, many African professionals view no opportunities for growth in Africa and thus leave.

The consequences of the brain drain are many, but most importantly, Africa looses its human capital—its brain. Africa is deprived of the cutting-edge advancements that its professionals are making abroad for overseas companies and countries. Ultimately, the political, economic and social development of Africa is greatly stalled because the driving force is nowhere to be found.

The brain gain is the other side of the story: where large amounts of the highly skilled and talented population of a country leave and migrate to another country for better opportunities. Does this sound like the brain drain? Yes, because it is the brain drain, but only from the perspective of the one who is gaining and not draining.

The brain gain is most commonly witnessed in the United States. The United States has always been a destination for opportunity, a place where one has a real chance of claiming their piece of the American Dream.

In recent years, however, many skilled and talented Africans and non-Africans alike have started to migrate to the African continent. This phenomenon known as the brain gain reaps positive benefits for the continent because it is a reversal of the loss Africa has suffered. While the 1960s is typically known as the so-called start of the brain drain, Africa has suffered under the brain drain since the era of enslavement hundreds of years ago.

The brain gain offers new promise for Africa. Now being recognized as a continent of hope and opportunity, there is much to be said about Africa’s promise. Technological, political, economic and scientific advancements have placed Africa at a greater forefront than it ever was. Indeed, it is also known as “the last global frontier” in terms of its largely untapped reserve of natural resources. Unprecedented developments in information and communication technology (ICT) have completely overhauled the way Africa’s human capital operates and mobilizes. Investment in ICT allows for greater economic activity and development, attracting the attention of those living abroad that seek greater opportunities.

In the same manner that African professionals are leaving Africa and African students that study abroad are staying abroad, the process is now being reversed to where African students and professionals are returning to rebuild what was lost in their absence. The new generation of Africans is becoming aware of their modern history and of the triumphs and tragedies that Africa has faced in the past centuries. However, more important is that the new generation of Africans is awakening to the opportunities that lie ahead for Africa and is realizing that to make a positive and proactive difference, they must be the driving force behind those opportunities.

African governments are now realizing that not all students and professionals living abroad want to return. Some members of the African diaspora have settled comfortably for many years in their new adopted homelands, be it in the United States or elsewhere. Because of this, new incentives are being created and many governments in Africa have stared to open offices dealing directly with capturing the skill and talent of the diaspora. Correctly so, an increasing number of African countries consider their highly qualified nationals living abroad as an asset for national development.

The brain circulation is Africa’s latest weapon for success because one does not need to be in Africa to help rebuild Africa. Unlike the brain gain or the brain drain, the brain circulation is not a black-or-white phenomenon; it allows much room for creativity and innovation. The impact of the ICT sector is very evident in brain circulation. For example, Skype, Cisco Systems and other video and telephone conference services have allowed African and non-African professionals and students living abroad the opportunity to simultaneously connect with those who live in the continent. 

Advancements in tele-education have allowed professors from India the opportunity to teach courses in universities in countries like Ethiopia and South Africa without having to physically be there. Connected through video conferencing, these Indian professors are able to circulate their brain with students in Ethiopia and South Africa. 

Likewise, advancements in tele-medicine have allowed physicians in Kenya to diagnose patients with the medical help of physicians in the United States who are viewing these medical files through real time connection.

Virtual colleges and hospitals are just two examples of the advancements made through investing in the ICT sector in Africa. This allows mankind the opportunity for brain circulation without national or political barriers preventing us from communicating with one another. One does not need to live in Kenya, or be Kenyan to support the country’s development. Likewise, one does not need to live in Nigeria, Africa’s top oil producer, to help advise the government on new energy technologies and strategies. We can do this using our fingertips, laptops and mobile phones.

African governments are now realizing that the strength of its lost workforce does not need to return permanently to help rebuild the continent. National projects building roads and telecommunications systems are now being led and advised by the African diaspora. Without the effective involvement of the African diaspora, it is highly unlikely that any long-term results will be achieved. 

The forced removal of millions of Africans through enslavement is now being undone through the opportunities in brain circulation. The African diaspora with its resources and skills will be able to mobilize quickly and simply because we live in the information era. Otherwise known as the knowledge era, the information era thrives through the creation, manipulation, consumption and teaching of knowledge. This knowledge—this brain—is now a force that cannot be stalled at an airport because one cannot get a passport to enter Sudan or Zimbabwe. Rather, this knowledge is active through real time technology that allows us to be here and there, and consequently, everywhere.

Now that I have discussed the brain drain, brain gain and brain circulation, I would like to attempt to answer my initial question: “What can I bring to Africa?” Africa, once a byword for hopeless, poverty and famine, is moving forward through the strategic investment of knowledge. 

At the Ethiopian Global Initiative, the nonprofit I founded, our mission statement identifies two important things that we all can bring to Africa. First, our social capital: the value of networks, the value of who you know. Secondly, our intellectual capital: the value of human knowledge, the value of what you know. Social capital is important because it determines our ability to build and foster relationships and our ability to use those relationships for good. “Good” can include human rights, development, peace and cultural preservation. Intellectual capital, the value of human knowledge and resources, includes your skills, experiences and how competent you are. Intellectual capital has two important components, human capital—the individual—and structural capital—the society.

By harnessing our collective capital, by bringing it together in one brain trust, we bring to Africa one word: transformation. Because the intellectual diaspora can be tapped virtually wherever located, we as Africans and non-Africans alike, have the distinct opportunity of engaging Africa half a world away without ever leaving our bedrooms. 

The transformation we bring to Africa is manifested through political, economic and social development because our collective capital becomes Africa’s latest weapon for success. Understanding the importance of and utilizing our social and intellectual capital will allow greater influence in the political affairs, economic prosperity and social development of Africa. What Africa needs most is not aid, it is not even trade; it is the skilled and determined people to uproot the continent to realize its full potential. 

Your social and intellectual capital and the transformation we can collectively cause through it is what you can bring to Africa.

Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a people to raise a continent.

Samuel M. Gebru is the President and Chairman of the Ethiopian Global Initiative.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Education is the Sustainable Solution to Improving Maternal Health

By: Abel Tadesse, MHS (@Abel_says)
May 7, 2012

This coming Mother’s Day, most of us in developed countries will recognize the mothers we know in our lives. We will dedicate some time to order chocolate, flowers, or buy lotions filled with wonderful aroma. On the other hand, there are hundreds of thousands of mothers mainly in developing countries that go through many challenges in their path to become a mother. According to The New York Times article U.S. Lags in Global Measure of Premature Births, the premature birth rate shows a significant increase and it continues to grow. The article also references a collaborated report published by the World Health Organization (WHO), Save the Children and March of Dimes that highlights the staggering number of premature birth rates where more than 60% of preterm births occur in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

The number is frightening but it is crucial to realize the important elements needed to address this issue: expanded effort on awareness and education.  The rising number of 15 million preterm births leading to more than 1 million deaths worldwide needs special attention. This does not include preterm births in areas where there is no defined tracking process or those deaths in rural areas of developing countries. Global organizations such as World Health Organization agree that the 75% of the deaths can be prevented with cost-effective care. 

This may be one element to address this issue; however I strongly believe the problem can be more effectively solved, such as implementing access to educational programs such as Ethiopian Global Initiative (EGI)’s Midwives Scholarship Fund. The organization is aiming to increase the number of midwives by working with the Hamlin College of Midwives (HCM) in Ethiopia. HCM focuses on selecting students from rural Ethiopia to complete a Bachelor of Science in Midwifery. Upon completion and proper licensure through the Ministry of Health, the midwives are placed back to their communities to care and educate mothers, children and their families providing holistic pregnancy care.

This is the sustainable kind of effort that we in the developing world need to focus on as it is long-term solution that improves maternal-child healthcare, including preterm birth complications and death.

Support the Midwives Scholarship Fund us by making a donation today.

Abel Tadesse, MHS, is the Director of Project Development at the Ethiopian Global Initiative.  

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Bridging the Gap: EGI Working to Reverse the Brain Drain

By: Rose Goldich (@rosie_hg)
March 11, 2012

Ethiopia lost 75% of its skilled workforce between 1980 and 1991.

The phrase “brain drain” is nowhere near new to Africa. Over the past 30 years, many African countries have lost their trained and skilled professionals. Many people leave the continent to receive higher education and better jobs in other areas of the world. This creates the deficit of educated professionals, such as physicians and scientists, in areas of the world that need them the most.

There is more than just the physical loss of people leaving Africa. The loss of professionals is greatly affecting the health and economic development of countries in Africa. For example, because many Africans are going abroad to become doctors, 38 out of the 47 African countries are falling short of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) regulation to have 20 doctors per 100,000 civilians. This creates a severe shortage in the amount of people able to get medical attention. Also, Africa’s scientific output has slightly decreased. There are more African scientists and engineers in the United States than on the whole continent. 

With the Ethiopian Global Initiative’s U.S. College Students for Ethiopia (USCSE) program, every summer chosen applicants are sent to Ethiopia to serve as interns with local, Ethiopian-led organizations, ranging from community health organizations to micro financing institutions. Essentially, USCSE aims to reverse the brain drain by bringing talented and skilled students back to Ethiopia, in order to get Ethiopians and non-Ethiopians alike interested in increasing Ethiopia’s opportunity for success. The program aims to “tackle the shortage of a skilled and educated workforce in Ethiopia” by bridging the “access gap”, “creating an “environment for volunteerism and community engagement”, and raise the “consciousness of service to Ethiopia”. 

EGI encourages new professionals to go to Africa as well as those who have earned their degrees abroad to return and help people understand the necessity of skilled professionals.  As much as new ideas are helpful, those who have seen and experienced the needs of a country can also bring interesting solutions to the table. The brain drain is a multi-faceted problem that cannot be solved overnight. USCSE is making college students—future professionals and leaders—aware of the changes that need to be made in order for countries like Ethiopia to become successful.  

Rose Goldich is studying International Relations and Economics at Clark University and is the Social Media Intern at Ethiopian Global Initiative. 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Salute Women by Improving Maternal Health

Click to enlarge.
By: Samuel M. Gebru (@SMGebru) and Zewdy Awalom (@Zewdy)
March 8, 2012

Today is International Women’s Day, an opportunity for us to celebrate the women worldwide making a positive impact to our families and communities. A United Nations-recognized political awareness holiday, International Women’s Day is aimed at giving attention to the political, economic and social struggles women in our world still face while also celebrating their vast achievements.

Dedicating a day for women reminds us of the challenges women endure and the strength they have. On the occasion of International Women’s Day 2012, we would like to focus on the urgent necessity of our world to focus on improving maternal health.

One third of all births take place at home without the assistance of skilled birth attendants. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 536,000 women die annually due to the lack of proper maternal healthcare. Over 3 million stillbirths and 3.7 million newborn deaths occur each year. Tragically, 99% of these maternal and child deaths occur in developing countries like Ethiopia and the vast majority of these deaths are preventable.

At the Millennium Summit in 2000, 192 United Nations member states, including Ethiopia, adopted the United Nations Millennium Declaration, pledging to “spare no effort to free our fellow men, women and children from the abject poverty and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty.” Improving maternal heath, the fifth goal of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), includes achieving universal access to reproductive health.

Quality maternal health services are fundamental to achieving successful births. In developing countries, where the urban-rural divide is greater, rural women have even less access to proper maternal health resulting in even more deaths.

These largely preventable tragedies must be addressed through improving the quality of and expanding the access to healthcare and education. According to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), over 25,000 women die annually due to pregnancy-related complications in Ethiopia. More than 500,000 women suffer annually due to complications caused by pregnancy and childbirth.

The Ethiopian Global Initiative (EGI) is committed to improving maternal healthcare. EGI’s Midwives Scholarship Fund aims to fully fund the education of eight students at the Hamlin College of Midwives (HCM) in Ethiopia, a local private college accredited with the Ministries of Education and Health. HCM’s four-year programs grant students a Bachelor of Science in Midwifery. At the core of HCM’s work is the prevention of childbirth complications and deaths through education.

63% of illiterate young people globally, about 86,310,000 people, are women. Because many women are uninformed about their maternal health and legal rights these issues go unnoticed. By educating a new class of midwives in Ethiopia, HCM aims to improve the local healthcare workforce and keep Ethiopia’s human capital in country.

EGI aims to help women empower themselves. Educating women to become skilled midwives and deploying them to rural Ethiopia preventing childbirth complications and deaths is an enormous task that requires your generosity and support.

Join us and celebrate women daily. No woman should suffer during childbirth. Donate today and share our message with your friends.

Samuel M. Gebru is the Chairman and President of the Ethiopian Global Initiative. Zewdy Awalom is an up-and-coming R&B singer whose voice has been compared to that of Beyonce Knowles.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Reducing Maternal Health Disparities

By: Bethel Tsehai, M.P.H. (@bethel_tsehai)
January 2, 2012

The most basic of human rights, the right to health and life, are greatly disproportionate in developing countries such as Ethiopia. Particularly in the area of maternal health, the number of preventable maternal deaths, stillbirths, newborn deaths, and birth related injuries are astounding. To put things into perspective, it is estimated that more than 500,000 Ethiopian women and girls will suffer from injuries caused by complications during pregnancy and childbirth each year.

The issue of maternal health is so great that improving maternal health is one of the Millennium Development Goals for 2015. In order to address many of the preventable birth and pregnancy related injuries and deaths, the World Health Organization recommends that countries work towards the goal of having skilled birth attendants, such as midwifes, who have received formal education in the area of pregnancy and childbirth be present at every birth.

The Hamlin College of Midwives in Ethiopia has taken this recommendation to heart and developed a program in midwifery. Unlike students attending vocational schools, the students of Hamlin College of Midwives will be given a formal education and graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Midwifery. With a population of nearly 80 million in Ethiopia, there are only 1,000 qualified midwives. Despite this daunting challenge, the College is committed to educating midwives and equipping them with the tools needed to care for and educate women in the area of maternal health. 

The Midwives Scholarship Fund (MSF) project under EGI is working towards raising funds to support the education of at least eight midwives attending the Hamlin College of Midwives. Through supporting the education of midwives, MSF is taking part in becoming a part of the solution in maternal health.

In light of the holiday season, I encourage you to support our efforts by donating or raising funds to educate midwives. Well trained and skilled midwives are the key to reducing the disparities facing women in Ethiopia today.

Bethel Tsehai, M.P.H. is the Project Manager of the Midwives Scholarship Fund at the Ethiopian Global Initiative. 

Important Information

© 2010 Ethiopian Global Initiative, Inc. Material may be republished with credit to this blog and/or the original author. The views and comments expressed in this blog are not necessarily those of the Ethiopian Global Initiative, Inc.