Health Poverty Action promoting health for pastoralists in Ethiopia

Health Poverty Action works with some of the most marginalised and poorest communities in the world. Health Poverty Action works with Ethiopia to improve the health of pastoralists, particularly women and children.1

Ethiopia has the highest maternal mortality rates and lowest rates of health expenditure per individual in the world. 50 mothers die for every 100,000 live births and an estimate of nine in 10 births are not attended by a skilled health worker. Statistics for pastoralist groups are worse.1

Pastoralism is defined as the traditional way of life centering around livestock herding for food, materials and trade, which has been developed over many centuries as a sustainable livelihood in the world’s arid and semi-arid regions.5 Pastoralism is seen in all parts of Africa, where pastoral areas occupy 40% of Africa’s land area. It constitutes a central part of Africa’s heritage, history and culture. Pastoralists are nomadic, a group of people who move from one place to another to search for foods and water.5

There are approximately 12 to 15 million people from 29 different ethnic groups in pastoral regions of Ethiopia.1 There are poor equipments and insufficient health workers in the pastoral regions of Ethiopia. A large number of Health Extension Workers has been deployed by the Government of Ethiopia in the past few years to improve the accessibility and coverage of health services.1 However, the health coverage of the pastoralists remains low. Health Poverty Action provides on-the-job training to improve the quality of health services provided by the Health Extension Workers.1

Mobile clinics and community-constructed birthing huts can be constructed and implemented by NGOs such as Health Poverty Action.1 However, NGOs need to persuade state authorities to implement these interventions to tackle the lack of healthcare accessibility.1

Health Poverty Action works with pastoralist communities who live along the border of Ethiopia and Kenya, to increase healthcare accessibility in the Dollo Ado District in Ethiopia and Mandera West and Mandera Central districts in Kenya.2 This project is supported by European Union. The pastoralist communities are geographically isolated and are socially and economically marginalised.2 These communities are underrepresented and do not possess political authority in the government sectors.2  Health Poverty Action aims to train key health workers, provide more family planning options at local health facilities and raise health awareness for pastoralist communities.2

Health Poverty Action trains local organisations about health rights.2 Volunteers promote family planning and counselling.2 They also provide transport to healthcare services.2 Furthermore, they train traditional birth attendants in child care and counselling.2 Traditional birth attendants are provided with mobile phones to refer women to healthcare services. Health Poverty action strengthens local health networks so that women can gain quick access to healthcare services in case of pregnancy complications.2

The project in Bale Lowlands area of Ethiopia is funded by the European Commission. This project provides life-saving sexual and reproductive health services to pastoralist women in Bale lowlands.

Rainwater harvesting schemes are installed in healthcare facilities to improve quality of maternal and child health services and hygiene.3 Health staff is trained to provide life saving assistance to women during childbirth.3 Furthermore, Health Poverty Action increases awareness about HIV, harmful practices like female genital mutilation and encourages pastoralists to realise their right to health.3

The project to improve health services for South Omo and Dollo Ado pastoralists is funded by the Big Lottery Fund.4 Pastoralists are affected by drought and floods as they depend heavily on livestock. There are high maternal and child mortality rates as well as high levels of preventable diseases in the area.4

Health Poverty Action supports mobile voluntary counselling and testing outreach services for HIV. In addition, they support women’s health insurance groups to lend money for maternal child health emergencies.4 There are support groups for educating the communities of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.4 Tuberculosis and polio vaccination programs are provided for children.4

Health Poverty Action provides health advocacy principles and strategies to raise awareness via education campaigns. Healthcare services and vaccination programs are allocated for children to improve overall health of pastoralist communities.


  1. Health Poverty Action (UK). Strengthening marginalised communities along the Ethiopian and Kenyan border [Internet]. Health Poverty Action (UK); 2014 [cited 2014 Apr 3]. Available from:
  1. Health Poverty Action (UK). Strengthening marginalisedcommunities along the Ethiopian and Kenyan border [Internet]. Health Poverty Action (UK) [cited 2014 Apr 3]. Available from:
  1. Health Poverty Action (UK). Saving mothers’lives in the Bale lowlands [Internet]. Health Poverty Action (UK) [cited 2014 Apr 3]. Available from:
  1. Health Poverty Action (UK). Improving health services for South Omo and Dollo Ado pastoralists [Internet]. Health Poverty Action (UK) [cited 2014 Apr 3]. Available from:
  1. International Human Rights. Pastoralism and the discrimination of sustainable livelihoods [Internet]. Australian International Human Rights; 2013 [cited 2014 Apr 3]. Available from:

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