Alive & Thrive launches new investment in Ethiopia

August 15, 2018

In partnership with the Government of Ethiopia, Alive & Thrive (A&T) has helped improve breastfeeding and complementary feeding practices for children under 2, strengthened the counseling skills of health sector frontline workers (FLWs), and engaged FLWs from different sectors to reach mothers and their communities through social behavior change communications. As A&T in Ethiopia looks forward, it is refocusing its efforts by providing greater technical assistance and systems-strengthening support to the federal and regional bureaus of health and agriculture across six regions.

Ethiopia event speaker
Rafael Makonnen of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Photo credit: Alive & Thrive.

On July 17, A&T officially launched this new investment in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Participants included representatives from: the federal level of the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (including Nutrition Case Team Leaders); six Regional Health and Agriculture and Livestock Bureaus; the Federal and Regional Seqota Declaration Program Delivery Units; academic and research institutes; 19 donor and partner organizations, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (the foundation), Irish Aid, and FHI 360; and local media.

The half-day event, facilitated by A&T, featured opening remarks from Mr. Raphael Makonnen (Health and Nutrition Program Officer at the Gates Foundation), Mr. Birara Melese (Delegate for the State Minister of Health & Nutrition Case Team Leader of the Federal Ministry of Health), and Dr. Eyasu Abraha (State Minister of Agriculture and Livestock).

Mr. Birara Melese of the Federal Ministry of Health. Photo credit: Alive & Thrive.

Each of the three speakers brought different perspectives, but universally emphasized the need to involve multiple sectors to improve nutrition in Ethiopia. Makonnen spoke about the long-standing partnership between the foundation and the Government of Ethiopia to strengthen maternal, infant, and young child nutrition (MIYCN) within the Health and Agriculture and Livestock sectors, recognizing the importance of nutrition for Ethiopia’s economic and social development. He added that the foundation’s investment through A&T will support the Government to achieve targets set in the National Nutrition Program (NNP) II and the National Nutrition Sensitive Agriculture Strategy (NNSAS).

Representing the Federal Ministry of Health, Birara expressed national optimism for improving the nutritional status of pregnant and lactating women and children in Ethiopia, which is driven by a strong political commitment that engages multiple sectors. The Ministry anticipates that A&T will build upon the success and lessons learned from its previous efforts, which significantly improved MIYCN practices, and its innovative and data driven approaches to addressing sub-optimal nutrition in Ethiopia.

Dr. Eyasu Abraha, State Minister of Agriculture and Livestock, emphasized the role of the Agriculture and Livestock sector in improving MIYCN in Ethiopia.
Dr. Eyasu Abraha, State Minister of Agriculture and Livestock. Photo credit: Alive & Thrive.

Speaking from the agriculture perspective, Dr. Abraha stressed the critical role of the agriculture and livestock sector in improving MIYCN. He added that nutrition is a priority agenda for his Ministry, where the focus includes increasing food production and improving dietary diversity and women’s empowerment by introducing new technologies that will significantly reduce women’s workload.

Following these opening remarks, A&T introduced its new investment in Ethiopia, titled “Accelerating Improvements in Maternal Infant, and Young Child Nutrition in Ethiopia.” Dr. Abdulaziz Ali, Ethiopia’s Country Program Director, presented the goals, geographical scope, and expected outcomes of the program, and highlighted the existing opportunities for scaling up of MIYCN interventions in Ethiopia, and A&T’s approach to systems strengthening, which is based on the World Health Organization’s six building blocks.

Under this new investment, A&T will support capacity building and systems strengthening in six regions: Amhara, Oromia, Tigray, and Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples (SNNP) in agrarian areas; and Afar and Somali in pastoralist areas. As A&T continues to roll out its activities, we will hold similar launch events in all six regions.