ADDIS ABABA – Ethiopia has achieved a Millennium Development Goal (MDG) by reducing child mortality rates by 67 percent compared with 1990 figures. In 1990, approximately 204 Ethiopian children out of every 1,000 died before reaching the age of 5. A new report released by the United Nations shows that by 2012 that number had dropped to 68. Having reduced child mortality rates by two-thirds, Ethiopia became the sixth nation to achieve the fourth MDG, reducing child mortality.
Ethiopia joins Tanzania, Liberia and Malawi as African nations that have achieved the fourth MDG ahead of the 2015 deadline. In terms of reducing child mortality, the most significant progress is being made in east and southern Africa. The region has achieved an annual reduction rate of 5.3 percent, which is the highest in the world.
But not every nation is progressing. For example, Kenya’s child mortality rate has increased since 1990 despite government efforts to provide free maternal healthcare. Elsewhere in Africa, statistics are grimmer. In the western and central regions of the continent, 1 out of every 8 children will not live to the age of five. Worldwide, only 13 out of 61 participating nations are on track to reduce child mortality in accordance with the MDGs.
Dr. Peter Salama, a UNICEF representative for Ethiopia, attributes the reduction in child mortality to Ethiopia’s health extension program. Dr. Salama explained, “The programme put on the government payroll more than 36,000 health workers and deployed them to more then 15,000 health posts across Ethiopia.”
Often working in remote locations, these health workers provide services to mothers and newborns such as immunizations and treatment for pneumonia. Dr. Salma also pointed out that because the extension program has been government-led as opposed to donor-led, it should be easier to sustain on a long-term basis. Because of the program’s success, other nations are sending delegates to Ethiopia to study their efforts.
Despite the progress, Ethiopia is still a high child mortality country. “If you look at the absolute number of children dying in Ethiopia, it is still huge,” said Dr. Kesetebirhan Admas, Ethiopia’s Minister of Health. “We have committed to end all preventive child deaths in a generation by 2035. And we have developed a road map to reach that ambitious target.” If the government remains committed to expanding the health extension program, Ethiopia should continue to make gains in reducing child mortality.
— Daniel Bonasso