Johnson, Katherine

Public Health

MSPH

Ethiopia

Ethiopia - UNICEF funded Strengthening Basic Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care (BEmONC) Project

The Strengthening Basic Emergency Obstetric and Newborn care (BEmONC) project, is a two years (2014 – 2016) that works to tackle the multiple factors that contribute to the high morbidity and mortality of mothers and their newborns with the specific objective to address the needs for improving basic emergency obstetric and newborn care (BEmONC) at hospital and health center level. The project will support the government of Ethiopia by building the capacity of training sites to condcut quality training, support health service managers to conduct quality supportive supervision and support health care providers to deliver quality BEmONC.

Global Health Mentor: Tracey Shissler, Jhpiego

For my field placement, I was matched with the UNICEF funded Strengthening Basic Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care (BEmONC) Project at Jhpiego in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Due to some last minute funding issues, the project I was initially matched with fell through and I went to the Jhpiego office to help on a variety of projects, including the upcoming Maternal and Child Survival Project (MCSP) recently awarded to Jhpeigo by USAID. This was one of the first lessons of my placement: learning to roll with the punches in regards to international development funding, especially in a developing context. Nevertheless, I arrived in Addis in late June excited to start my experience.

One thing that became clear quite quickly was the difference in office culture between Addis and where I was used to working in Washington, D.C. Internet connectivity issues, difficulty getting in touch with field staff in remote areas and time differences make the office environment feel a bit slower paced, which was a welcome change after the high intensity of U.S.-focused non-profits. Staff members are much less email-focused and interact with each other on both a professional and personal level. This was another welcome change and really promoted a sense of community among the Jhpiego Ethiopia staff.

Adjusting to everyday life in Addis was difficult at times. Securing housing, learning how to get around and finding good places to go (when not working) were challenges that were slightly mitigated by being placed with two other award recipients. Water and power outages are fairly common (though I hear less common than in other cities), sidewalks are often non-existent and getting around is quite difficult. After meeting some friends, learning the city a bit better and navigating the taxi system, I came to really love Addis. It’s a quirky city with a lot of hidden gems, and can be quite lovely when the weather is nice (summer is the rainy season).

I was fortunate enough to be able to travel quite a bit in Ethiopia, both for work and for fun. I did a site visit at the University of Gondar for Jhpiego and got to visit their midwifery department. This was an incredibly eye-opening experience in terms of higher education in Ethiopia, which will improving still has a long way to go. I also traveled to Lalibela, Hawassa, Debre Ziet and Debre Lebanos, all of which showcase the natural beauty of rural Ethiopia. These trips brought to the forefront the statistic I’ve known for a long time that 90% of the country lives in rural areas. I often found myself thinking of how far a pregnant woman might have to walk to get to a health facility when I could see the distance with my own eyes. Seeing the state these health facilities were often in broke my heart, and made me proud to work in global health. The experience solidified my desire to work in countries like Ethiopia to promote maternal and child health. It also helped me to realize that I would be open to working in the field longer term and that I can adapt to life in a developing context. I highly recommend this experience for anyone thinking about a career in global health but unsure about being able to handle living in a developing country. This placement was a rewarding experience that I will always look back on positively, and I’m so thankful for the opportunity to have gone!

Photo Captions:

1. Country.office
2. Jhpeigo group
3. Gondar

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