For the past few days, I’ve been travelling around Ethiopia to see global health in action. Alongside Kate Dodson, the UN Foundation’s Director of Global Health, and seven congressional delegates — leading policy staff for Congressmen representing districts across the U.S. — I’m getting the opportunity to meet with the doctors and officials who plan and distribute life-saving health interventions like vaccines and bed nets, and to sit with the mothers and infants who live longer, healthier lives because of these tools.
We spent our first day speaking with the U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia, and directors from seven of the 26 UN agencies who work throughout Ethiopia to get an overview of the health system in the country, and the current crisis that has forced nearly one million people to flee their homes and seek safety in refugee camps on the border.
The next day we joined our UNICEF colleagues and went to a rural district called Wolliso to see how UN partners, U.S. funding, and communities are working together to save lives from preventable diseases. After a two hour drive, we arrived early in the morning and met at the Gombore Health Center. With new improvements, there’s a clear structure for health care here: each Health Center serves a population of around 25,000. For each Health Center, there are five health posts, operated by two Health Extension Workers (almost entirely women) serving 5,000 people each. Each Health Center must then identify a “model family,” a family who takes every step they can to protect themselves and their community — wash their hands regularly, receive all recommended vaccines, sleep under a bed net, use a fuel-efficient cookstove, and tell their neighbors why they should do the same. It’s a remarkable concept and, best of all, it works!
Wolliso is a pilot district for malaria elimination. Over the past few years, UNICEF has worked with the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) and the local government to strengthen their fight against malaria by giving a bed net, and the necessary education to every family who needs one. They explained to every parent why their children have to sleep under nets, and what can happen if they don’t. They asked the Model Families to spread the word, and people to speak up and tell the health center if they see that one of their neighbors isn’t using their net, and guess what? Every family in the district now has the nets they need, 95 percent of these families use the net every night, and there hasn’t been a single death from malaria in three years. (Check out the chart below!)
This is more proof of what you already know: bed nets work! And right now, they’re urgently needed in refugee camps here in Ethiopia and Kenya. Will you help us reach our goal of sending 150,000 life-saving nets to refugee families? Send a net and save a life today.