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Maternal, Newborn & Child Health

Child marriage, poor healthcare and a lack of awareness about good health practices can be fatal for women and children in Ethiopia.

Helping mothers and children grow strong in Ethiopia

Save the Children has been helping to create a better health service, and working to change attitudes on harmful traditions. From 2013–2017, we worked with local health providers to build better access to healthcare for mothers. We amplified important conversations designed to reduce harmful practices like child marriage and improve knowledge about mother and child health. It was one of our most significant programs, with life-changing impacts.

Why better health for mothers and children is important

A lack of access to healthcare and high rates of child marriage create serious challenges for the survival of mothers and their children in the Amhara region of Ethiopia. The leading cause of death for 15–19 year-old girls globally is complications from pregnancy and childbirth1, a statistic that becomes more prevalent for girls in Ethiopia who are pressured into early marriage and, as a result, poverty and a limited education.

Early marriage is also one of the main underlying causes for child mortality, with children born to adolescent mothers at increased risk of illness and death. In Ethiopia, one in 20 children dies before their first birthday, and 1 in 15 dies before their fifth birthday2.

Save the Children's Maternal, Newborn and Child Health program

We invited women and young girls to advise us on how we can best meet their needs. We spent four years improving access to quality health services and encouraging girls and women to seek out professional healthcare, with support from their families.

We worked with communities and schools to reinforce the marriage age of 18 so girls are supported and empowered to make their own choices about their future. And we partnered with government health departments to increase community awareness and strengthen mother and child healthcare services.

How we know we made a difference

Every year, we reached more than 100,000 children and adults with essential health services and information. Over the life of the project, the estimated percentage of births attended by a skilled healthworker nearly doubled, from 25% to 47%3

We helped cancel 1,684 child marriages, enabling better health and education outcomes for all the girls involved. The project also helped identify 2,336 girls who were at risk of dropping out of school, and provided educational materials to support their continued schooling.

We've seen 120 mother support groups established in communities, providing a platform for both men and women to learn about pregnancy, birth-preparedness, breastfeeding, nutrition and other issues related to mother and child health.

We've also seen 195 radio listening groups set up for girls, boys, women, men and people living with disabilities. These groups start conversations that have the power to change harmful attitudes and practices.

In 2017, the Maternal, Newborn and Child Health program came to a close. But we know we’ve left trained staff, passionate healthworkers and empowered young people who will continue to improve health outcomes for mothers and their children.

Who made our program possible

This program was funded by the Australian Government. Through the government’s overseas aid program, Australians provided children and their families in Ethiopia and around the world with the chance to achieve a brighter future. Find out more about how Australian Aid is changing lives here.

Save the Children also partnered with the Ethiopia Government, Gondar University and community-based organisations in the Amhara region.

1World Health Organisation Adolescent Pregnancy Factsheet
22016 Ethiopia Demographic and Health Survey 2016
3Health Management Information System, Amhara Regional Health Bureau, Ministry of Health


Banner image: Robert McKechnie/Save the Children

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