Modeling Healthy Behavior for the Community in Ethiopia

March 21st, 2012 | Story


Zeynu Ullu is a 30-year-old mother of five living in Oromia, Ethiopia. Many people in her community, including her family, had long-suffered from intestinal parasites and diarrheal diseases. “I did not have a latrine—no one in the community had one. Mothers did not breastfeed their newborns on their first milk,” she says.

JSIi's Essential Services for Health in Ethiopia project held a training for community health promoters to learn how to provide services to the community.
Zeynu Ullu proudly points to the pit latrine she constructed after she attended the training.

That was until three months ago, when Zeynu had the opportunity to participate in a community health promoters initiative training, which was organized by the JSI Essential Services for Health in Ethiopia (ESHE) project. During the training, Zeynu learned to use the family health card, a small booklet with key health and nutrition messages.

“The training gave me a chance to practice talking about the actual problems we have,” she says.

The USAID-funded ESHE project is training community health promoters like Zeynu in Oromia’s four zones, in each of their five districts. The assistance that community health promoters provide to the local health service system is remarkable. They are increasing the use of health services, including child and adult immunizations, as well as reducing the number of mothers interrupting their infants from being fully vaccinated. The key messages community health promoters are sending help to save the lives of children and other vulnerable groups.

Zeynu and fellow community health promoters
Zeynu and fellow community health promoters

Zeynu understood what it meant to be a community health promoter after she attended the training. “I started thinking about what I can contribute to my community to help lessen our health problems. I rehearsed the key messages of immunization, breastfeeding, vitamin A supplementation and sanitation,” she says.

Zeynu now uses every opportunity to pass on health messages: on her way to fetch water, when going to the market, and at all social events.

“All women in my community are informed about breastfeeding, immunization and sanitation. I did not expect that my contribution would bring about such a change,” says Zeynu.

She also uses her training to improve the lives of her own family members, and thus has become a model for the entire community. Using homemade bricks, she built a pit latrine which helps keep her family’s home sanitary. Zeynu is now helping other community members to do the same.

As result of Zeynu’s training and the messages she is passing on, her community is a safer place to live.

“Today my dreams have come true! I won the battle at my home. I have a pit latrine for my family. I talk to my neighbors about its importance and show my latrine as a model. I can’t keep quiet unless I pass all the health messages I have learned!”

The Essential Services for Health in Ethiopia (ESHE) project was a five-year initiative funded by the US Agency for International Development. ESHE was designed to improve child health in selected areas of the country by engaging parents and families in the community to be active participants in their own health. ESHE also supported Regional Health Bureaus to strengthen health systems and health worker skills. ESHE was managed by John Snow, Inc., (JSI) in collaboration with Abt Associates, the Academy for Educational Development, and Initiatives, Inc.

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