Progress Report: Addressing Gaps in Rural Maternal and Neonatal Care in Ethiopia

On location in Ethiopia.

The mission of Village Health Partnership is “to prevent maternal and neonatal death in childbirth and to treat and prevent gynecologic complications of childbirth in rural Ethiopia.” Each year, VHP board members and other volunteers travel to Ethiopia to work with community leaders to review progress, perform needs assessments, and define future programs and funding priorities.

Dr. Margaret “Migs” Muldrow

Two Americans, Dr. Margaret “Migs” Muldrow, an internal medicine and dermatology physician and founder of VHP, and Scott McKitrick, a geologist and engineer, traveled to Ethiopia in October 2023 to assess maternal healthcare facilities. They visited health centers and hospitals in the West Omo Zone, Bench Sheko Zone, and Mizan-Aman, reviewing water and sanitation systems, infection prevention protocols, infrastructure, staff training needs, and more.

While confronting real deficiencies, they discovered heartening progress. The Maji District Hospital implemented exemplary infection controls demonstrating what’s achievable. Other facilities have taken first steps establishing healthcare guidelines despite scarce resources.

Unfortunately, many facilities lacked basics like reliable water access and hygiene items. As Dr. Muldrow recounted, “All health facilities now had some water, the smaller Health Centers needed more water and a few of the Health Centers had water systems that needed repair.” Sanitation was also lacking at some facilities.

Regions of Ethiopia where VHP works.

Some facilities shone, like the Maji District Hospital, which had robust infection prevention controls in place. But many struggled to implement national healthcare guidelines.

Rather than blaming struggling staff lacking fundamentals, the visitors are pursuing an uplifting path forward. They collaboratively developed mentoring relationships, training programs, and targeted projects side-by-side with local partners to sustainably address identified gaps. Plans emerged for new skill-building curriculums, infrastructure upgrades enabling proper hygiene and housing for mothers-to-be, and system-wide access to essential supplies.

As Dr. Muldrow emphasized, their annual visits allow them “to review programs, discuss problems and successes” and determine next steps with Ethiopian partners. She remains “buoyed to see progress and inspired to confront new challenges” in pursuit of safer rural maternal health.

Read the full 2023 travel report here (in PDF format).

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