Ethiopia’s five year Health Sector Transformation Plan, which embraces community engage- ment platforms to achieve health service delivery, has once again put the country on the map of celebrated health programs in Africa that are geared towards Universal Health Coverage (UHC). It is premised on this that the Minister of Health in Ethiopia, Dr Amir Aman, and Ethiopia as a whole were recognized in the recent Africa Health Agenda International Conference (AHAIC) that was held on March 3-7, 2019 as a champion in its health sector initiatives.
The country’s widely celebrated health extension program, implemented at the health posts, benefits both urban and rural communities through 40,000 health extension workers that drive the country’s successes in improving primary health care service delivery in the country, including meeting its Millennium Development Goals 3 and 4.
This 15 year old program, supported by the district (woreda) transformation agenda framework, is currently being revised to adapt to the increasing demand of the community and to tap into opportunities of strengthening primary health care services towards UHC. With the optimization of the health extension program, the reformed Primary Health Care Unit (PHCU) and international partners’ commitment, the Government of Ethiopia is paving the road to quality health service delivery for its citizens.
The award reaffirmed the Government of Ethiopia’s commitment to improving access to UHC through home-grown and communi-ty-centered solutions. Acknowledging and paying tribute to the 40,000 health extension workers, who work tirelessly to deliver quality primary health care services to their community in urban and rural Ethiopia, Dr Amir handed over the award to Senait Fesseha, a health extension worker from Ethiopia, who participated in the AHAIC. The Minister took the opportunity to honor all health extension workers for their invaluable service and breadth of efforts to improving the health of rural mothers and children. Several panels of the conference highlighted the successes and lessons learnt from Ethiopia’s health extension program recommending other African countries to draw examples and success- ful approaches while contextualizing them into their settings to provide wide-reaching public health care services to their publics. The remuneration of extension workers in Ethiopia was highly acknowledged during the World Health Organization (WHO) launch of its new guide- lines on health policy and system support to optimize community health workers programs.
Moreover, the AHAIC 2019 Communique called upon governments to make Community Health Workers (CHWs) an integral and remu- nerated part of the formal health workforce highlighting countries like Ethiopia, Rwanda and Liberia who have already done so.
Advocating for the need for her fellow community health workers in Africa, Senait Fesseha called upon health ministers and all policymakers to work towards motivating health workers through regular payment and incentives noting that community participation and ownership are the driving force behind UHC and therefore integration of community health workers into the health system lead to improved health outcomes.
Echoing the Ethiopia experience as the best practice to learn from, participants at the conference advocated for deploying well trained and paid community health workers as the right prescription to achieve UHC in Africa. These voices align with Amref Health Africa’s global advocacy agenda on remunerating frontline community health workers.
Held every two years, the Africa Health Agenda International Conference 2019, convened more than 1,800 participants from 49 countries.