Progress has been made in Ethiopia: under-five mortality has halved; early warning systems alert communities and government to failing rains or floods; there are now at least two health workers in every village.

Sintayehu, 16, with her 15-month-old son and her 13-year-old niece. Sintayehu became a mother at the age of 14. The latest UN figures suggest that an infant's risk of dying in their first year is 60% higher when the mother is under 18.

The challenges

Ethiopia has set its sights on achieving Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5. It’s an enormous challenge for a country once known almost solely for hunger, and with shockingly high rates of child and maternal mortality.

On top of this, climate-change induced floods and drought mean that parents cannot feed their children adequately, as harvests fails and livestock die. Here as elsewhere, poor children are hardest hit.

“Every time there’s a big drought, millions are affected,” says our country director Francisco Roque. “There’s no more famine on the scale we once saw, but emergencies continue to be a threat to Ethiopia’s people.”

What we’ve achieved

A year ago, five-year-old Almaz might well have died. With a temperature of 38.6 C and rapid breathing, she was very ill. Her mother took her to her local health worker, whom we had trained, and who treated her for pneumonia. She survived.

If Ethiopia achieves its aim of cutting child and maternal mortality by two-thirds by 2015, Almaz’s story will no longer be the exception, but the rule. We are proud to be part of this ambitious drive to save so many lives. 

We are working with Ethiopia’s Ministry of Health, UNICEF and other NGOs, training health workers to treat the diseases that needlessly kill more than 320,000 children under five each year: malaria, diarrhoea, pneumonia, as well as malnutrition. We are also helping to ensure more and more people have access to the drugs they need.

In the coming years, this and other efforts could save the lives of hundreds of thousands of children – 300,000 children saved from pneumonia alone.

And we’re making sure people are better able to cope with drought and food shortages:

  • As drought struck the Somali, Afar and South and North Wollo provinces in 2010, we provided a range of life-saving services with long-term benefits: renovating water and sanitation systems, and training health workers and water authorities in how to respond to epidemics.
  • The early warning information we provide to regional governments now covers two regions and a population of more than 5 million.
  • Nearly 80,000 children under five and 45,000 pregnant and breast-feeding mothers benefited from our emergency nutrition intervention in Waghamra, North Wollo and South Wollo.

What’s urgent

Time is running out for Ethiopia to reach MDGs 4 and 5 by 2015. 

  • Per capita health expenditure is US$16, half what’s needed. We hope that donors can help Ethiopia increase health funding so that more children can live.
  • 2.3 million people are living on the brink. We need to provide emergency aid, but also stop the cycle of poverty and need.

You can help

With commitment, innovation and ambition, Ethiopia can meet its millennium targets.

“Everything has changed,” one mother whose child lived after being taken to a clinic. We hope that, with your help, life will now change for hundreds of thousands of Ethiopia’s children.