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VSO/Paul James Driscoll


VSO has been working in Ethiopia since 1995, changing lives through our work in health, education and with young people. 


The rate of newborn babies dying in hospitals with VSO-supported Neonatal Intensive Care Units has decreased by an average of 40%.


In Kahsay Abera Hospital in Tigray, admission rate has doubled after the establishment of a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit


In 2017-18, our inclusive education projects reached 22,681 disadvantaged children and supported 3,035 education practitioners.

Health projects in Ethiopia

Nurses in Ethiopia VSO/Paul James Driscoll

Nurses Rahel Beyan (left) and Tirhas Kidane (centre), with VSO volunteer Miriam Etter. Five dedicated NICU nurses have been brought in specially to assist on neonatal care in Suhul hospital in Shire, Ethiopia.

VSO volunteers are working to improve neonatal, maternal and child health. We are supporting newborn babies, pregnant women and sick children to access quality health services through:

  • 16 Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUs)
  • 4 Paediatric High Dependency Units (PHDUs)
  • 1 Maternity Waiting Home (MWH)

The rate of newborn babies dying in hospitals with NICUs has already decreased by an average of 40% as a result of VSO support.

Recent results:

  • As a result of the newly-established paediatric high dependency units, hospital stay time has been reduced from an average of 12-17 days to just 5 days.
  • in 2017-18, in Kahsay Abera Hospital in Tigray, neonatal mortality rate was reduced by a further 2.1%, while admission rate has doubled after the establishment of a standard NICU.

Capacity building project in Tigray and SNNP regions

Working to improve neonatal, maternal and child health in 11 communities towards the realisation of Health Sector Development Plan Four (HSDP-IV).

  • Improving the maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH) services
  • Improving the implementation of Health Management Information System (HMIS) in selected organisations
  • Improved implementation of Ethiopian Hospital Management Initiative (EHMI) for better accountability and governance

Newborn and child health project in Benishagul Gumuz

Suhul Hospital (Shire) NICU inauguration with the participation of RHB Representative

Suhul Hospital (Shire) NICU inauguration with the participation of Regional Health Bureau Representative

  • Reducing neonatal and child mortality in two hospitals.
  • Improving access to quality health care services by upgrading the skills and practices of nurses and other medical staff in the Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUs) and High Dependency Units (HDUs)
  • Strengthening the support structure within the community for the health care need of mothers, newborn children and children under 17.

Those benefiting from this project are spread across a two-hospital catchment area of 441 rural and 34 urban villages with a total population of 964,645 people. We expect to directly benefit:

  • 2,500 new born children,
  • 1,460 critically ill children under the age of 17 and
  • 10,000 expectant mothers.

Indirectly, we expect to reach:

  • 146 health workers and other relevant administration and management staff in the hospitals 
  • 147,301 community members through tailored information, education and communications activities.

The expected outcomes of the project are:

  • Reduced newborn mortality rate by 50% and child mortality by 40% in the two targeted hospitals
  • Improved quality of care in line with best practices and international protocols and empowered nursing staff that provide patient-centred care.
  • Increased health-seeking behaviour by the community and reduced maternal, new-born and child mortality in the target region

Reducing maternal and neonatal mortality in the Hadiya and Gurage zones

We’re improving the services for pregnant women and their children, especially those at high-risk, at the obstetrics and gynaecology department through volunteer’s coaching and training.

We’re also supervising, monitoring and evaluating the new Maternal Waiting Home (MWH) at Butajira Hospital.

As well as improving outcomes for patients, we’re putting in place protocols and procedures to ensure consistent care and proper handling of maternal emergencies.

More information

For more information and case studies, see our maternal and neonatal health project page

maternal and neonatal health project page

School children learning inside a model classroom in Finote Selam, Ethiopia © VSO/Ben Langdon Photography

School children learning inside a model classroom in Finote Selam, Ethiopia

Education projects in Ethiopia

Our work in education is focused on reaching pre-primary and primary age children in the most underserved areas.

We've seen considerable change in terms of enhancing inclusion, quality and equity of education services.

For instance, we've been supporting Abi Abi College of Teachers Education to develop culturally appropriate supplementary material which have been distributed to more than 12 primary schools in the Holla Tembein district of the Tigray region.

In addition, teachers have been trained on the use of the new reading materials and how to create a rich reading environment for the children.

Recent results:

  • In 2017-18 we reached 22,681 disadvantaged children and 3,035 education practitioners. Most of these interventions were conducted in highly underserved regions in Afar, Benishangul Gumuz and SNNPR.

Youth employment and enterprise

Empowering disadvantaged young people from rural and urban areas by improving self-employment and livelihood opportunities through education; promoting green jobs through green area development, tree planting and urban solid waste disposal; and developing marketable skills through the creation of a youth-led enterprise.

Recent results:

  • Pilot initiative in Benishangul Gumuz that has reached 100 youths has provided behavioural, technical and other soft skills for the youth in their effort to secure sustainable income generation through employment and entrepreneurship.

Strengthening civil society through active youth participation

We are strengthening civil society by working with 120 national youth volunteers to engage them in their community and country’s development. 

Volunteering for Development programme

The Volunteering for Development programme, funded by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) works to improve quality and access to health and education services as well as livelihood opportunities for the most poor and vulnerable.

The grant recognises VSO's extensive experience of putting volunteers in the right places to tackle poverty and inequality. Find out more


Contact us

Interested in finding out more about our work in Ethiopia? We’d love to hear from you.

Location: Nefas Silk Lafto Sub City, Woreda 03 HNO 161/01
(Behind the Canadian Embassy)
Postal: PO Box 23531, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Tel: (+251)11 384 8276

Interested in volunteering in Ethiopia?

Find out more and see volunteer roles available.

Volunteer in Ethiopia