The Ethiopian government began its Health Extension Worker (HEW) Programme in 2003. By training young women with at least some schooling to provide basic health services to their communities, the Federal Ministry of Health hoped to improve access to quality primary health care in a country that is predominately rural.
By 2010, Ethiopia had trained 33,819 HEWs who were deployed in 89% of communities throughout the country. While HEWs do not focus exclusively on maternal and child health, they do provide WHO’s recommended Focused Antenatal Care (FANC), connect women to facilities for delivery, provide at least one PNC visit, and coordinate immunizations for newborns. Results have been largely promising, with the percentage of women receiving at least one ANC visit almost doubling from 2000 to 2011. However, linkages with higher-level health services need to be strengthened since the vast majority of women are still giving birth at home and without a skilled attendant.