The New Idealism of International Aid
Friday, May 31, 2013
In 2002, the Ethiopian Federal Ministry of Health set out to provide primary health care for the nation’s 85 million rural citizens — many of whom didn’t live within accessible distance of a hospital or even a doctor. The plan was shocking to some, said Dr. Kesetebirhan Admasu, Ethiopia’s Minister of Health. After all, they had given themselves only five years to implement it, and lacked both the resources and facilities needed to train an anticipated 30,000 community health workers. With only a year of training, these workers would be sent out to villages across the country to address disease prevention and promote general health. Since the program’s unlikely implementation, however, Ethiopia has seen decreases in the number of women dying in childbirth, and in children dying before the age of five, among other markers of success.
That Ethiopia’s health care development began with simple, community-driven improvements, instead of through “top-down” means like the creation of hospitals, is itself significant. Equally important, however, is that the idea was implemented by the nation’s own government.