Black coffee and baby talk in Ethiopia

When most people think of Ethiopia, they think of coffee. Not only is some of the best coffee grown in the Ethiopian high lands, also is this black gold, ‘bunnah’, immensely important in the social lives of most Ethiopians.

The coffee ceremony, where beans are manually roasted, crushed, put on the stove and blessed, can take up to two hours. Therefore, this ceremony is the most important social happening of the day, where people sit together and discuss what is new.

LUCY, the m-health service for expecting women, mothers of newborns and their families, is one of those things that women talk about during the coffee ceremony. LUCY mobile service is part of the Health[e]Families project that Health[e]Foundation runs in Ethiopia, is offered through a collaboration between Maternity Foundation and Health[e]Foundation, with the support of Viamo and the Ethiopian Midwives Association (EMwA). During the evaluation of the project with participating midwives, they mentioned:

“Some of my clients [pregnant women] told me that the coffee ceremony is where they sit with their friends and together read the informational messages that they have received from LUCY mobile service on their phones. They will discuss what it means for them. Some friends of my clients have come to my facility and ask if they can also be registered for the service. As a midwife, I am happy to see this positive interest from the community!”

Testimony of midwife, participant in Arbaminch, Ethiopia.

Since the start of Phase II of the Health[e]Families project in October 2017, already over 4500 women are enrolled for the m-health service, and receiving timely information about their pregnancy or their newborn baby.

We are excited to announce that at the start of December, the so-called ‘Infant package’ for LUCY was launched! This means that the LUCY messages do not only cover the months of pregnancy, but also cover the period up to one year of age of the infant. Topics such as vaccination schemes and nutrition for mother and baby are covered in this package.

The abovementioned testimony was provided by one of the participants of the Health[e]Families project in Arbaminch, Southern Ethiopia, during the follow-up workshop and evaluation of the project. This workshop was part of the trip in the first half of December 2018, in which Health[e]Foundation paid a visit again to Ethiopia. A very fruitful trip! We could hand over well-deserved certificates to over 100 participants in Arbaminch and Adama for successfully finishing the Female&Family[e]Education curriculum, and start a training with a new group of highly motivated midwives in Mekelle.

Not only that, but also did we make great steps towards a sustainable future of the program in Ethiopia. We feel that the project is taking flight: informed by thorough evaluation of the project, new developments are becoming reality; constructive meetings took place with Viamo and EMwA; we are busy with the preparations of a ‘course review’ by experts from all over the country; EMwA, in the coming year, will document a Best Practice regarding LUCY mobile service; and we are immensely excited by the news that the Ethiopian Ministry of Health is now setting up its working group for CPD accreditation for healthcare providers.

The endless efforts of our colleagues from EMwA, during the three-month self-study were again visible: all participants expressed their gratitude towards Diriba Bekele, project officer of the Health[e]Families project, who has been supporting the participants throughout, and Ibrahim Yimer, CPD coordinator, for sharing his knowledge and really getting to the hearts of participants regarding Respectful Maternity Care.

We would like to say thank you, ‘Amesegenalehu’, or እናመሰግናለን to our colleagues at EMwA and are looking forward to all good things ahead!

Would you like to learn more about LUCY mobile service? Check!


A women in Tigray region, Southern Ethiopia, preparing traditional coffee.