Tseganesh Worku is a resident of Hossana town in Ethiopia’s South Nation, Nationalities, and Peoples Region. The 24-year old mother of two children, aged 3 years and 1 month, remembers the early post-delivery days:
“My labor only lasted an hour; it was breastfeeding that was challenging for me. It took a while before my milk started flowing. My son was crying day and night. I remember my family trying to give the baby water to keep him calm.”
She was on the verge of giving up when Marta, an urban health extension professional, knocked on her door for a postnatal visit. Marta showed Tseganesh the proper techniques for breastfeeding and advised her on the importance of exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of the baby’s life.
Breastfeeding has many health benefits for both infants and mothers. It is critical during the first six months of life as it is a complete source of nutrition for babies and helps prevent diarrhea which is one of the major causes of death in infants. It also contributes to optimal cognitive development.
Now, with her second child, Tseganesh is determined to exclusively breastfeed and master the techniques of latching. “Thanks to Marta, I am now more comfortable and less frustrated about breastfeeding,” she said.
These days, Marta frequently visits Tseganesh and the newborn to check on their health and give advice on breastfeeding, nutrition, sanitation and hygiene, and family planning.
In Ethiopia, urban health extension (UHE) professionals are clinical nurses who provide health education and health care services at the community level. One of their main services is providing maternal and newborn care for pregnant women and new mothers at the household level. In support of their efforts, the USAID-funded Strengthening Ethiopia’s Urban Health Program (SEUHP), led by JSI, has been working to build the capacity of health workers through the competency-based Core Public Health Training. The training improves UHE professionals’ skills, knowledge, and motivation so that they can provide quality maternal and child health, HIV, tuberculosis, water, sanitation and hygiene, interpersonal communication, and monitoring and evaluation services. So far, 2,300 UHE professionals have participated in it.
According to Marta, the SEUHP training has empowered her with skills to provide better and more impactful health care services to families in her community. The program also provides UHE professionals with job aids to support their health education and counseling services at the household level.
*Together with Ethiopian partners and stakeholders, including Emmanuel Development Association (EDA) and Addis Ababa University, SEUHP is strengthening the Government of Ethiopia’s (GoE) Urban Health Extension Program by improving the quality, use, and management of community-level urban health and related services. SEUHP is assisting the GoE to improve the quality of community-level urban health services, increase demand for facility-level health services, strengthen regional platforms for improved implementation of the national urban health strategy, and improve collaboration between various sectors working in urban sanitation and waste management. Over the life of the program, 49 cities/towns will be supported.