In Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia—one of the poorest countries in the world—you have to walk across wooden boards over water that smells of sewage to get to Yekatit 12 Hospital Medical College. Despite its ramshackle entrance, Yekatit 12 is not a place of failure. In fact, it’s an enormous success.
I learned about Yekatit 12 and the progress Ethiopia has made in maternal and child health after watching a video of vlogger John Green make a visit to the medical center.
Yekatit 12 saves more than 2,000 babies a year with the help of organizations like Save the Children. Dr. Mulualem Gessesse works in the natal intensive care unit (NICU) at Yekatit 12. What she accomplishes there is astonishing. With her team of nurses, they have managed to create makeshift CPAP machines with oxygen tanks, tubes and water, allowing babies born prematurely to survive by inflating their tiny lungs with oxygen.
Since 2000, Ethiopia’s child mortality rate has decreased enormously. The country even met the Millennium Development Goal of decreasing deaths of children under five by two thirds or more—a huge success. Still, children are dying – many of them from preventable causes. In fact, 72 percent of newborn deaths could be prevented with simple measures such as good hygiene and nutrition. However, in order for that to happen, Ethiopians need medical supplies and the knowledge regarding effective sanitation, nutrition and newborn care.
Save the Children has taken critical steps to assist Ethiopia. Thanks to the organization’s support, the Ethiopian government has developed a comprehensive nutrition plan and built sexual and reproductive health services in the country. But there’s more that we can do.
This bipartisan legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate would allow poverty-stricken countries in need of assistance to receive tools tailored to their specific needs. It would increase access to proven solutions that can save many children’s lives. If Congress passes the Reach Act, we can help incredible people like Dr. Gessesse and her team make lifesaving impacts a reality.