Screams of a woman in labour reach to the main road through the yellow-painted walls of the health post in Dura. Abrahat Tsegay attends the birth. Since eight years, she has been counselling and treating women as a health extension worker. “I became a health worker because I saw many people being ill and suffer in my woreda (district). I wanted to help,” she says about her beginnings in the Ethiopian health system. Today, it is her duty to manage the two rooms of the health post consulting mothers and their children. “It is often due to negligence – the mothers just don’t know, they don’t have the time to prepare and feed their children. They think a child is like an adult eating one time a day,” she states.

The screams of the woman go over in the crying of the new-born baby. After another few minutes, Abrahat exchanges her rubber gloves with a pen noting down the date of birth in the family report next door. In blue and red ink, past illnesses, attendance levels of regular check-ups and the change in diet to complementary food have been recorded. “Since UNICEF has been supporting the Complementary Feeding Programme, I have seen great changes. I was educated to tell mothers to diversify the child’s food intake. Now there is an actual product, easy to make and accessible to mothers,” she explains. The product is a nutritious blend of grains finely ground and comes in packages of one kilogram.


“Complementary food is the best option to prevent malnourished or stunted children,” she says and adds: “Outpatient Therapeutic Programme (OTP) is not a solution, it’s a treatment.” It worked in the case of 11-month old Wahid Baweke. During a household visit, Abrahat noticed serious malnutrition and started treating the baby with plumpy’nut, a ready-to-use food mixture of peanuts and sweets. A week later, measurements of the weight and upper arm showed improvements. Nutrition is however only one component of Abrahat and her colleague’s job. Whoever is not on duty at the health post, educates the households in the sub-districts (kebeles) on the remaining aspects of HIV/AIDS, personal health and safety. “Besides the reduction of malnourished children I can see the weight is normal and cognitive behaviour has improved,” she says.

On district level, Abrahat collaborates closely with the so-called development agents from the Government’s Agricultural Growth Programme (AGP) that tries to increase agricultural productivity. As she puts it: “Without health there is no agriculture, and without agriculture there is no health”. For the health of her one-year old daughter, she leads by example and feeds her complementary food three times a day adding when possible chopped meat, milk, egg or vegetables. Abrahat’s future will further be dedicated to helping women. “It is my ultimate wish to become a BSc Midwife, so I can give professional help to pregnant women,” she says. She drops the pen and walks over to the young mother who is peacefully rocking her baby boy.