Strengthening maternal and neonatal health in Ethiopia in the midst of a global health emergency

The COVID-19 pandemic is jeopardizing the routine health services of Ethiopian midwives. The African Journal of Reproductive Health affirms that Ethiopian midwives struggle with the consequences of COVID-19 while ensuring safe deliveries. Health workers report that COVID-19 travel restrictions in Ethiopia are forcing pregnant women to give birth at home. Moreover, staff involved in the provision of SRHR services have been diverted to fulfill other tasks, clinics have been closed, and people are reluctant to visit health facilities for SRH services. Hence, the need to train midwives in performing their core tasks during these daring circumstances is evident.

Therefore, Health[e]Foundation in collaboration with the Ethiopian Midwives Association and Viamo, initiated a program aiming to provide specific knowledge and skills for continuation of essential maternal, neonatal and SRHR services during health emergencies. The program started on the first of April and will provide training for pre- and in-service midwives via blended-learning on how to respond to the pandemic. In addition, the community at large will be empowered via a mobile voice/text service with information on the pandemic in relationship to maternal health and increased domestic and gender-based violence.


Blended-learning on pandemic response for Ethiopian midwives

Within the program, midwifery students and practising midwives will receive training both on how to safely continue maternal, neonatal and sexual and reproductive health services during a health emergency and how to safely provide maternal care for COVID-19 infected pregnant women, as well as modules on the effects of the pandemic on domestic and gender based violence, gender equality and mental health with the aim to promote women’s rights and gender equality. Blended-learning, consisting of on-site workshops combined with e-learning, increases the knowledge and skills of midwives to continue to perform their core tasks safely, promoting the importance of SRHR and maternal health services during a pandemic and signaling as well as responding to the increased incidence of domestic and GBV, and arising mental health problems. The blended-learning provides the theory and tools for midwives to transfer acquired knowledge to their clients and communities.

Empowering the community at large with health information on their mobile phone

A mobile service for clients of midwives and community members will be developed in collaboration with Viamo. Clients of in-service midwives as well as peers, friends, fellow students and other community members of pre-service midwives will be enrolled to this service via their mobile phone and will receive a combination of voice calls and text messages, free of charge, over the course of one month with additional information and reminders about topic(s) of choice on either 1) prevention and treatment of COVID-19 (during pregnancy), or 2) maternal health during the pandemic, or 3) sexual and reproductive health during the pandemic or 4) what to do when experiencing domestic or gender-based violence and/or mental health problems. This service reinforces and complements the midwives’ messages and takes pressure of their workload, strengthening service delivery and empowering clients with knowledge.

In synergy with the Pandemic Response program, we will resume our specialized course on maternal and child health (Female&Family[e]Education) for Ethiopian midwives and midwifery students. Moreover, the successful LUCY voice/text service for pregnant women and mothers of newborns, which attracted more than 10,000 users over the past years, will soon be launched in Ethiopia as a smartphone app, reaching out to more women in a sustainable manner.

Thanks to the generous support of Nuffic and Dioraphte, we are able to develop and implement our programs in Ethiopia. We thank them for their trust and believe in the contribution we can make to strengthen the Ethiopian maternal and neonatal healthcare system.


G.T. Feyissa et al. (2020). Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Mitigation Measures: The Case of Ethiopia. African Journal of Reproductive Health