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Partnership for health in Ethiopia

The way that charities like Save the Children work in a country is more complex than people think. It is understandable that members of the public donate money and assume that we’re delivering services. Sometimes we perpetuate this by saying things like “we save lives” and “we have immunised children”. But actually, what we’re always doing is supporting long-term, sustainable solutions through government systems. If we do it right, ideally we should not even be involved in the future!

In Ethiopia, I was able to visit some excellent examples of this way of working: health system strengthening which supports government systems, not undermines them. Save the Children has recruited, developed and supported Community Health Promotors, volunteers who promote awareness of health services and healthy practices in the community and support the work of the (paid) Community Health Extension Workers. They visit homes in their remote mountain community to talk about health needs, and can represent the community and advocate for their health needs.

In Amhara, we have developed a very positive partnership with the government. The extent of this is visible in the sign on the left – the main sign for the health centre in Sayint in Amhara region which carried the national flag and Save the Children’s logo. We are certainly not interfering in the job of the government which pays the salaries and the running costs of this excellent health centre.

Mr Buzayehu, the very dynamic director of the health centre, was clear that he values the way that Save the Children supports his health centre. We support it through funding and running additional services, including youth-friendly services such as “Stepping Stones” groups of young people, women and men who discuss HIV and gender, and renovating toilets and washing facilities. He and the official from the Woreda (local government) were emphatic that we support their priorities and do not impose our own.

The balance for an international NGO and the communities we work with is to help to support government systems as (the only long-term solution), as well as to encourage the government to invest more and target the poorest people better. When we get that right, it is good partnership and good advocacy.

It was very inspiring to meet the Save the Children team in Amhara Region: Mickey, Mulugeta, Bella, Brooke, Mulugeta, Alana, Mesle, Tiqist and Seifu who (together with Genet from the Addis office) really helped me understand our way of working and inspired me with their commitment and passion. I have probably spelt some names wrong but wanted to thank them all!

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