In an interview with EurActiv’s Senior Editor Georgi Gotev on 27 February 2015, Ethiopian Health Minister Kesetebirhan Admasu described major successes and challenges in the Ethiopian health sector.
Among the successes is the massive expansion of the access to primary health care: around 16,000 health posts and 3,500 health centres were constructed in the last years. According to the Minister, this means that on average, 95% of Ethiopians live within 30 minutes of walking distance from a health facility. He further explained the health system, where Ethiopians living under the poverty line can afford all health services for free. But an insurance system is currently being put in place, where all citizens in the formal employment sector will contribute 3% of their salaries, and the employer also contributes 3%.
H.E. Kesetebirhan also recalled that Ethiopia has done remarkably well in achieving all the health-related MDG goals, among others by reducing new HIV infections by more than 90%. These progresses were possible because of the innovative health service delivery model introduced in the country, which is considered by many as a model for Africa and the rest of the developing world.
The training and deployment of 38,000 health extension workers also played a big role to help the country improve health outcomes. For instance, in the area of family planning, in 2000, only 6% of married women were using modern family planning services. Today, 42% are using modern family planning methods.
The Minister then explained why Ethiopians “are the champions of country ownership in development” Programs designed in Brussels or Paris or New York or London may not necessarily fit into the local context in Africa, according to him. So Ethiopia doesn’t accept prescriptions from development partners, regardless of whether they are well intentioned or not. But when national plans are developed, all development partners are engaged. The targets we always seen as too ambitious, but by putting all the efforts, they often reveal to be achievable.
For example, the government decided to construct 3,500 health centres in the country in just five years. People were asking, “How is that possible?” After five years, 3,000 health centres were constructed, 500 short of the target but it was a massive achievement.
According to the Minister, another aspect making Ethiopia unique is the engagement of communities.