Improved safety for Afar pastoralist mothers

In the Afar region of Ethiopia, 93 percent of mothers deliver their babies at home with the assistance of traditional birthing attendants (TBAs). Safe motherhood is fundamental to overall community development, and the Afar Pastoralist Development Association (APDA) is addressing the needs of the community through a holistic approach.

This includes a focus on strategies to increase access to water, since females traditionally collect water; improve the health of livestock, so that milk is readily available; improve household economies through income generation activities; and enhance access to education and literacy.

APDA’s programs aim to lessen the workload of females in daily household chores, stop harmful traditional practices that have a negative effect on women’s health and wellbeing, and to facilitate Afar women to be implementers of development change within their society.

The struggle for safe motherhood ideally takes place within the pastoralist home, led by the community and managed by the local government, including the traditional leadership.

Literate pastoralist women trained in safe motherhood work alongside APDA-trained traditional birth attendants in the remote Afar region of Ethiopia.
Image: APDA / Christof Krackhardt

Having selected the most active and popular TBAs in the community, APDA has trained 1,036 TBAs on basic hygiene, sanitation, clean delivery, antenatal care, and recognition of risk pregnancies. Trained TBAs are equipped with clean birthing kits for each delivery. This has resulted in the establishment of clean birthing processes and a referral mechanism to health institutions for ‘risk’ pregnancies.

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The great challenge in pastoralist children’s education

Educational opportunities for girls in Ethiopia’s remote Afar region are limited beyond primary school, due to some community resistance against educating girls.
Image: Christof Krackhardt

For the nomadic pastoralist communities of the Afar region in Ethiopia, education is a major challenge. Anglican Overseas Aid’s project partner, the Afar Pastoralist Development Association (APDA), began its literacy program back in 1996 with the initial training of 21 teachers. Since then, the program has grown significantly. There are currently 231 teacher-sites in 14 of the region’s 29 woredas (districts).

During this time, APDA’s program strategy has evolved to improve coverage and quality of education, assisting the regional government to devise policies and to implement appropriate education options in the pastoralist setting. While primary level education is being achieved in many nomadic pastoralist communities through a combination of mobile and static education, the question now is how these children will continue on.

APDA is piloting a strategy that will ensure more children in the isolated Afar region gain access to education on an ongoing basis. Students who would otherwise not have the opportunity to continue schooling, move to a town to live in student hostel accommodation. They are supported to live while they attend the local government school from grade five onwards.

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Increasing accessibility, improving health

Nomadic pastoralist communities in Kenya will gain improved access to health services through the formation of community health units. Image: Anglican Overseas Aid

In an effort to improve access to basic health care for nomadic pastoralist communities in Kenya, the Mothers’ Union has been working alongside the Ministry of Health to facilitate the training of Community Health Workers. They will form part of a community health unit, which is being established in each of the group ranches and will be led by a Community Health Committee. An extension worker (nurse) will be placed by the government within each committee. This approach is in line with the Ministry of Health’s Community Strategy.

In Laikipia district, 25 women and men are being trained as voluntary Community Health Workers in each of the eight targeted group ranches, with the objective of improving health care in their ranches. Further trainings will take place in Samburu district in future. Mothers’ Union anticipates that 200 health workers will be trained in total, along with 104 committee members. Together, they will be responsible for educating their communities on health issues through the dedicated promotion of good health behaviours.

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Visit to Ethiopia

Afar pastoralists on the move to find water, a scarce resource in the region.
Image: Christof Krackhardt.

Whenever I visit our project partner, the Afar Pastoralist Development Association (APDA), in Ethiopia we undertake a field trip to meet with the communities we are working with. APDA is a community-based organisation which was established by and for the community.  To ensure our joint partnership is successful, it is important to obtain the communities perspective on the effectiveness of The Road Less Travelled project.

On previous journeys we have left APDA headquarters in Logia and, on the road to Djibouti, travelled either northeast or south, into the Afar Desert. Here we meet APDA’s core constituency, the nomadic pastoralists and their family groupings, living in one of the poorest regions, in one of the poorest countries of the world.  Our visits highlight some of the challenges faced by those nomadic communities, and the vulnerabilities associated with a lack of education and resources. This situation is also perpetuated by the difficulties the government and other service providers have in reaching these minority groups.

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