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VSO/Ginny Lattul

Reducing newborn deaths in Ethiopia

Equipment and skills to reduce newborn deaths

Half of all new mothers in developing countries such as Ethiopia give birth without a skilled health professional present, often at home. This means complications can be catastrophic, with mothers not able to access medical care to save their babies - or themselves. 

Mulay and baby at NICU in Ethiopia VSO/Paul James Driscoll

Mulay and baby Mikail at the NICU at Suhul Hospital. Thanks to the NICU’s ability to provide oxygen, baby Mikail spent two weeks being treated for infection and shortness of breath and is now able to go home.

Providing the right resources

We are working across Ethiopia to equip hospitals with the resources and skills they need to reduce high rates of neonatal and maternal mortality. We're working to support:

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

There are dedicated rooms for babies with infectious diseases like meningitis, and hot rooms to help premature babies keep warm.

In Suhul Hospital, the rate of babies dying in their first 28 days decreased by 40%, in the year after opening the NICU.

The right skills

Nurse at Arbaminch Hospital | VSO International

 “There is a high team spirit amongst the NICU staff, a high level of cooperation. There is consistency in the service, consistency in treatment and monitoring by all staff. We are cascading the training to other nurses from the surrounding hospitals. We share resources and we share skills and knowledge.” -Solomon Tesfaye, Head nurse at Arbaminch General Hospital

Just as important as having the right equipment is having the right expertise. 

We've provided training and on-the-job mentoring to nurses to ensure these 'model' units are adequately staffed, and are supporting them with data collection and application. 

VSO volunteers have played a central role in establishing the units, then reducing their involvement so that locally-trained staff can take over full responsibility.

Attending hospital

Not only has the number of babies dying decreased, but there has also been a huge increase in demand and usage of the hospitals. 

The number of mothers bringing their babies to be admitted to hospitals has increased by half. 

An independent evaluation has found that VSO’s approach to newborn care in Ethiopia is “affordable, well accepted by hospital management and integrated into existing hospital routines, which all help guarantee the project’s sustainability”.

VSO came here, and we got training and the additional facilities. Now we can give them [babies] oxygen and medicine - it’s simpler. Babies would have died before and now they are more likely to survive.

Rahel Beyan, nurse at Suhul hospital

Case studies


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Please consider making a donation, or joining us as a volunteer or partner to help us save the lives of more mothers and babies.

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