Putting damaged health services for children on the path to recovery
This is what UNICEF and partners are doing to restore health services and provide free healthcare for vulnerable families recovering from conflict in Amhara, northern Ethiopia.
It's peaceful in the leafy courtyard of Dibiko Health Center but as you step into the storeroom, you pass bullet holes.
During the fighting, the facility, meant to be a safe space for patients, was occupied and looted by soldiers.
The human cost
The destruction had devastating consequences for children and their families.
"Six mothers died because they couldn't get treatment," says Maru Tesfa, Director of Dibiko Health Centre. "They couldn't even get here because our ambulance had been stolen.”
Dibiko Health Center isn't the only one. Over 3,000 health centers were damaged or left non-functional due to the conflict in Afar, Amhara and Tigray.
The people living in Dibiko, a few kilometers away from Lalibela's famous monolithic churches, are mainly farmers and are struggling.
"We are poor," says Asme, a farmer and proud father of three boys. "Because of the conflict, we lost our farm. Everything was destroyed. I couldn't work."
A safety net
With support from UNICEF and funds from Irish Aid, vulnerable families receive free health care through a community insurance scheme.
"The health insurance helped us a lot," says Asme smiling. "Four months ago, my wife gave birth here using the insurance. We get all the treatment we need here."
Just across the compound, Ayehu Meherete and Berhane Getahun have just finished a routine check-up with their daughters. Although they are both working, they are still struggling to make ends meet. Their blue book, which records their treatment, has been a lifeline for the family.
“I gave birth to my twins here. The day I got this book I was so happy,” says Ayehu, who works as a maid. “If I didn’t have this book, I wouldn’t be able to get health coverage for our kids.”
With a welcome peace agreement in place, UNICEF and partners continue to scale up support for health centres like Dibiko.
Relief so far includes midwifery and resuscitation kits, solar powered refrigerators for vaccines, mattresses, blankets, IT equipment and training for staff for health centres.
Despite dedicated health workers doing their best for families, there's still a massive shortage of resources including medical equipment, transportation, generators and laundry facilities.
With support from partners like Irish Aid, UNICEF is working to restore the right for children and families to receive quality health care across northern Ethiopia.
Thanks to funds from Irish Aid, over 450,000 vulnerable children caught up in emergencies are receiving lifesaving health services in northern Ethiopia. Funds are also being used to rehabilitate and restock health centres and train health workers.