ONE Mom Nicole Melancon is traveling with the International Reporting Project Fellow on a New Media Fellowship to report on newborn health. This post is a continuation of our series of stories from the ground. You can see the first post as reported by Elizabeth Atalay here. Follow their journey on Twitter with hashtag #EthiopiaNewborns.
Reaching Mosebo village, about 42 kilometers outside of Bahir Dar in rural Ethiopia is not for the faint at heart. It requires a land cruiser, patience, and a bit of adventure to cover the hour and a half drive on bumpy, muddy roads to reach Mosebo and see how over 90% of Ethiopians live. If it starts to rain, as it frequently does during Ethiopia’s three month rainy season, the road becomes dangerous and impassable.
I visited Mosebo village as a International Reporting Project Fellow to learn more about the miraculous success Ethiopia has made by reducing child mortality rates and the work that needs to still be done in reducing newborn deaths, particularly within the first 28 days of life which are the most dangerous days to be alive.
Per Save the Children’s “Ending Newborn Deaths Report”, every year one million babies die on their first and only day of life, accounting for 44% of all deaths for children under the age of five. Nearly two million more children will die within their first month. Four out of five of these deaths are due to preventable, treatable causes such as preterm birth, infections and complications during childbirth.
We arrived at Mosebo village to the sounds of children cheering and herders curious, gentle smiles. At the village, we were introduced to Tirigno Alenerw and Fasika Menge, two of Ethiopia’s 34,000 trained Health Extension Workers, who work at the Health Post located in Mosebo.
Mosebo is a model village run by Save the Children’s Saving Newborn Lives Program and represents the best case scenario for health care coverage and services for Ethiopia’s rural people.
The Mosebo Health Post covers 3,700 patients in the community which encompasses an area of up to an hour and a half on foot each direction. The Health Post has morning office hours from 8-10 am where Tirigno and Fasika see patients for a wide variety of services such as family planning, pre and post natal care, vaccinations, treatment of minor health issues, and education and consultation on health issues.
The rest of the day is spent on foot visiting patients in other villages at their home. Tirigno and Fasika also consult expectant mothers about the importance of delivering in a hospital, exclusive breastfeeding, and family planning. They contribute the lower maternal, child and newborn deaths to their services and over the six years they have worked within the community there have been no maternal deaths.
We had the chance to meet Fasika Dores and her nine-day old baby. Her baby is her fourth child, and has not been named yet which is common in Ethiopia given the high newborn mortality rates. However Fasika and her husband Minwiyelet plan on naming their child Ketema which means “city” in Amharic as he was their first child born at a hospital in a city.
As a nation, it is estimated that 80-90% of women still give birth at home without a trained assistant in Ethiopia, which significantly contributes to Ethiopia’s high newborn and maternal deaths. In Mosebo, 50% of the women now give birth at a hospital thanks to the advice and work of the Health Extension Workers.
Although maternal mortality rates have decreased, the rates are still way too high, and newborn mortality rates have shown little progress. Getting more villages like Mosebo and training Health Extension Workers as midwives would significantly reduce maternal and newborn mortality rates in Ethiopia.
As we left Mosebo village, the children ran after our cars smiling and waving goodbye. It was a happy place, and all we can hope is that more villages will have access to better maternal, child and newborn care.
ONE Moms Elizabeth Atalay and Nicole Melancon are both traveling as IRP Fellows in Ethiopia. You can find out more about their journey and ways to follow here.