Ethiopia and the Netherlands: Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights

Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) Program

Ethiopia’s progress to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) has been impressive: Ethiopia has reduced the under-five mortality with two thirds and thus achieved the ‘MDG-4’ target. However, considerable problems remain: due to poor hygiene and the fact that 83% of the deliveries continue to be at home and supported by unskilled attendants, one out of 15 children still dies under the age of 5 while Ethiopia’s Maternal Mortality Ratio remains high at 412 maternal deaths/100,000 live births (DHS 2016), down from 1400 in 1990, but short of the very ambitious ¾ reduction aimed for as MDG target. Just as The Netherlands, Ethiopia has now embraced the Universal Global Development Goals (SDGs) set for 2030.

The Embassy’s SRHR program provides support to:

1) SRHR through strengthening the health system

The Embassy supports the strengthening of public health systems through a contribution to the SDG Performance Fund of the Ministry of Health. A major component of this contribution is used to implement the flagship Health Extension Program that gives priority to family planning, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and nutrition. Together with other major contributors to the MDG-Performance Fund (amongst others DFID, World Bank and the Global Fund), the policy dialogue with the Ministry of Health will be strengthened. As the EU Delegation has chosen Health as one of their focal sectors in Ethiopia, opportunities for joint programming will be assessed and further elaborated.

2) Increased access

In parallel, the Embassy supports selected non-state actors to build capacity of public, private and NGO service providers in order to increase access to sexual and reproductive health services. Our support has a strong focus on social marketing of contraceptives, safe abortion care, strengthening of private service providers, SRHR workplace programmes and increased access for youth. These activities contribute to lower maternal mortality and help girls and women to better plan if, how many and when they want to have kids.

3) Sexuality education

The average number of children per woman in Ethiopia has reduced to 4,6 (Total Fertility Rate DHS 2016). This still contributes to a rapid population growth, with relatively more young people. The challenge for Ethiopia is to help all these young people to grow up well nourished, loved, educated and with jobs waiting for them. This also means that explicit attention for comprehensive sexuality education is crucial. Many Dutch NGOs, Strategic SRHR partners to the Ministry of Foreign are active in this field, also to avoid Early Child Marriage; the Embassy provides the coordinating mechanism to exchange experiences and to further develop best practices. The Embassy further assesses mechanisms to upscale comprehensive sexuality education in order to reach more youth with accurate information, which enables them to take healthy decisions and exercise control over their own bodies.

4) Coordination

Furthermore, the Embassy supports the coordination of different actors in the field of sexual and reproductive health. Strengthened coordination between the different thematic priorities is enhanced through a focus on nutrition and the implementation of law.

Within all these activities with government and NGOs, special attention is given to leadership opportunities for women and to the role of boys and men in sexual and reproductive health. Finally, the Embassy supports activities to eliminate harmful traditional practices with a focus on early marriage. The Ethiopian Alliance to End Child Marriage is an important strategic ally. Together with like-minded donor agencies the implementation of the law on safe abortion and harmful traditional practices is strengthened and, where possible, the legal barriers for minority groups are discussed.