The 2017 World Bank estimation indicates that Ethiopia’s population reaches around 104 million, making the country the second most populous nation in Africa. This is population potential can be an asset provided that it constitutes a healthy productive workforce which essentially contributes to the nation’s multifaceted development endeavors. To this end, the nation has been making huge investments for the past two decades to create healthy citizens.
Ethiopia has been designing and translating ground-breaking plans to address the unmet needs of its people to improve healthcare services through expanding health institutions, providing equipments and empowering professionals. The outcome of this effort highly paid off in improving citizen’s life expectancy and sustainable economic growth.
The key factor behind this achievement is attributable to the feasible healthcare strategy. The first Health Sector Development Program launched by the Ministry of Health targeted at the expansion of healthcare facilities across the country. The improvement in access to health services nationwide impacted the health of the people, thereby boosting production and productivity among the young productive population, engine of development and that constitutes 40 per cent of the total population. Following this, the country registered successive double-digit economic growth for over a decade, ministry Public Relation Deputy Director Tesfamichael Afework says.
The country health policy gives focus on providing health promotion and disease prevention, curative and rehabilitative services.
Based on the policy, the government has prepared a 20-year Health Sector Development Plan. It has been revised within each five year. The plan aims at ensuring effective social mobilization and awareness creation. In 1998, there were only 153 health stations but now the number has escalated to 3,547. This time, it is possible to hit the set target to provide health service for 25,000 people in a given station. At least one health post is constructed in every kebele. The vision of having one health centre for 25,000 people has already been achieved.
Nationally, there have been efforts to achieve the vision of creating healthcare access where primary, general and referral hospitals can serve 100,000, 1.5, and 5 million peoples respectively.
The government has given due emphasis for the engagement of the private sector in the healthcare and health education services. Accordingly, over 40,000 private health institutions are currently providing healthcare service in various medications.
Over the past two decades, the number of Ethiopia’s health institutions has increased from 1515 to 19,506. 225 of these are hospitals, 3256 health centers and 16025 health posts. Similarly, the number of physicians rose to 86382 in 2013 than that was 12342 in 2000. The expansion of public and private higher learning institutions contributes a lot to this improvement, according to Tesfamichael.
Presently, the nation’s medical higher learning institutions have the capacity to enroll 13,000 students per annum. As a result, the expansion of medical education enabled the country to run the sector with 86,382 health professionals of which 3,257 doctors, 29,550 nurses, 39,002 extension workers, 3,702 health officers and 10,871 paramedical professionals.
Of course, the development of health facilities has helped the country to achieve the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) set for the health sector through reducing mother and child mortality and declining the impact of malaria, TB and AIDS diseases. The death caused by HIV and AIDS and malaria has shown a 90 and 60 per cent decline. Similarly TB caused death number reduced significantly and the rate of treatment has also reached to over 80 per cent.
Ethiopia has achieved the MDG - 4 by reducing under-five child mortality rate three years ahead. The story of maternal mortality rate two decades back was that 1,200 of the 100,000 mothers who went to give birth in hospitals lost their lives. However this number declined to 412 this fiscal year. Similarly, under-five mortality also declined to 67 out of 1000 than that was 166 in 2000 and.
The access to healthcare service increased to 92 per cent in 2017 from 50 in 2000. And efforts are underway to reach the access at hundred per cent shortly by increasing the number of hospitals to 800, accessing health service in extension programs, and addressing the treatment to malaria, TB and HIV and AIDS diseases Tesfamichael noted.
Notable is also the progress in terms of drug and medical equipment supplies. An outstanding illustration would be that only the previous year the ministry bought 12 million USD worth medicine and distributed and it also built 23 medicine stores.
On the other hand, this year, the Ethiopian Red Cross Society (ERCS) has bought 50 ambulances at a cost of 42 million Birr and distributed to its 11 branches across the country so as to address first aid services. Red Cross Society General Secretary Firehiwot Worku says the society has bought the ambulances with the financial donation from the International Red Cross Committee in order to improve access to ambulance service nationwide.
The new ambulances would help the society to address the service assisted by the-state-of-the-art equipment and increased the number of ambulances to 435. As to her, the new ambulances would get into function next budget year. Public awareness on the usage of ambulance service has also been rising through time and the ERCS is serving the public utmost. “The major effort of the ERCS is to afford ambulance service at woreda and kebele level and minimize protectable injuries.”
In fact, the country has achieved astonishing healthcare success by implementing its health policies and strategies. The health strategy achievement has helped the country heighten the life expectancy from 45 to 64 years. And the sustainable economic growth of the nation is also attributable to its healthy manpower enabled through efforts of the health sector.
While the country achieved the health sector MDGs, still a lot remains to be done in terms of improving the quality of healthcare services. A recent assessment on the quality of health service made by the Ethiopian Ombudsman Authority confirms this fact. The study traced that there are still several problems related to shortage of medicine, water, disciplinary flaws, and sanitation.
Nevertheless, the ministry has been diligently endeavoring for the success of the implementation of the Health Sector Development Plan which encompasses the Sustainable Development Goals for the sector. Consequently, this would alleviate sector problems identified so far.
BY YOHANES JEMANEH