Remarks by U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia Patricia Haslach
at the World Vision Book Launch
February 5, 2015
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
- Ministry of Health (TBC)
- Dr. Mbillah (General Advisor for Program for Christian, Muslim Relations in Africa);
- Fellow Ambassadors and Diplomats;
- Religious leaders;
- Distinguished guests
In-de-men a-de-ra-chu and good morning! It is a distinct honor to join you all this morning for this event, sponsored by World Vision, to launch the book “Practicing Faith: Engaging Faith Leaders for Better Maternal Health.” I would like to thank Margaret Schuler, the Country Director for World Vision in Ethiopia, for inviting me to participate in today’s event and to speak about the important issue of maternal health.
There are many challenges in the world that we are confronting head on together, such as eliminating deadly diseases like malaria and HIV/AIDS; combatting malnutrition; educating young girls; and reducing the newborn mortality rate. In fact, the governments of the United States, India and Ethiopia, in collaboration with UNICEF, are working together on a Call to Action for Child and Maternal Survival, which identifies smart investments that can be made towards ending preventable child deaths and help all children live to their fifth birthday and beyond. In this regard, I’d like to acknowledge the Indian Embassy in Addis. Thank you for your support to end child mortality!
This book that we are here today to celebrate focuses specifically on maternal health, and there are good reasons to support that theme. A baby whose mother dies during childbirth rarely survives, and poor maternal health is detrimental to a household’s survival and functioning. In September 2013, Ethiopia announced that it had achieved the Millennium Development Goal #4 of reducing child mortality by two-thirds by the year 2015. This was a significant accomplishment and we both recognize and respect the Government of Ethiopia’s commitment and hard work, as well as the collaboration among stakeholders, bilateral donors, and non-governmental organizations, including the faith-based community, to make the death of young children a thing of the past.
In terms of maternal health, however, we are still working toward achieving our goals. There has been significant progress in reaching the Millennium Development Goal target of reducing the maternal mortality ratio by three-quarters, but we are not there yet. Fortunately, the Ministry of Health and the international donor community are working hard to meet the goal.
The main causes of maternal death are obstetric hemorrhage and hypertension. These problems can be addressed if women go to a health facility for prenatal visits and delivery of their infant. However, the majority of women still deliver at home. Forty-five percent believe delivery in a health facility is unnecessary, and 33 percent said it was not customary. However, when a mother has access to adequate prenatal care during pregnancy and shows the initiative to seek out that care, she becomes a role model for others in her community.
This leads to the heart of World Vision’s important book and the importance of faith based leaders as role models and catalysts for change. Achieving better maternal health is a realistic goal, and World Vision’s book describes how faith leaders can make a significant contribution in making this happen in Ethiopia.
As the book overleaf states: Change is urgently needed as these maternal and infant deaths, injuries and low levels of nutrition are entirely preventable. As the book documents, World Vision’s work with Ethiopian faith-based leaders, the government, and other partners addresses directly the socio-economic and cultural factors involved, as well as the accessibility of facilities and the quality of care.
The book demonstrates that it is in Ethiopia’s interest to engage and collaborate with the interfaith community and religious leaders to promote effective integration, security, and development. Religion plays a critical role in Ethiopian social and political life. I would like to acknowledge the efforts of religious leaders here today – those efforts and collaboration have facilitated the resolution of conflicts and served as platforms for strategic humanitarian action and development.
All of Ethiopia must work together to improve maternal health in Ethiopia. Governments can’t do this by themselves. Businesses can’t do this alone. Nor are faith-based communities or non-governmental organizations enough. But, together, we can make astonishing progress—thanks to the leadership of so many of you in this room.
Bottom line: Improving maternal heath not only saves mothers, but entire communities.