The CSO Policy Dialogue on Women's Health in Ethiopia
Meeting Women's Health Needs in Ethiopia: Challenges and Opportunities
Friday, February 15, 2019
United Nations Conference Centre, Conference Room 3

The powerful relationship between women’s socio-economic empowerment through their quality health and education, and economic growth is well established for Africa, including Ethiopia[1]. The government of Ethiopia has made important progress in responding to women’s specific health needs, as suggested by the important decline in maternal mortality, from 871/100.000 in 1993-2000 to 412/100.000 between 2009-2016[2], representing approximately 53% decline. However, maternal mortality rate still remains very high as a result of combined causal factors including women’s unmet important and basic reproductive health needs. The Ethiopia 2016 Demography and Health Survey (DHS) suggests that 73% of birth occur at home, only 26% occur in health facilities, and only 28% of birth are assisted by skilled birth attendants.[3] HIV and the health issues related violence against women and girls are areas of concern. Furthermore, emerging diseases such as breast and cervical cancers are plaguing many women (and girls) in Ethiopia, especially those in the rural and remote areas.  The National Disease Prevention and Control Directorate (Federal Ministry of Health), found that the most prevalent cancers in Ethiopia among the entire adult population are breast cancer (30.2%), cancer of the cervix (13.4%) and colorectal cancer (5.7%). And about two-thirds of annual cancer deaths occur among women (AACR 2014). Responding to women’s health needs and important challenges facing the Ethiopian health sector, as in many African countries, requires innovative interventions and financial models that will bring together public and private sector and non-traditional financial actors in order to harness substantial domestic, regional and global and financial resources.

It is against this backdrop that the ECA and WHO, in collaboration with Ethiopian Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), the Ethiopian Ministries of Gender and Health, UNDP, UNICEF, UNAIDs, UNWOMEN the AU Department for Social Affairs, will organize an Event, on the theme “Meeting Women’s Health in Ethiopia. Challenges and Opportunities” on 15 February 2019, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Like in other African countries and worldwide, CSOs have played a pivotal role in enhancing women’s health status, for decades.  The Commission on Social Determinants of Health, established in 2005 under WHO auspices has provided an impetus for greater involvement of CSOs and communities in health decision-making processes. Currently, about 30 CSOs work directly and indirectly on women’s health in Ethiopia, reaching out the furthest women and girls advocating for their health needs. CSOs are therefore the Government’s key partners for meeting women’s health needs and in so doing their socio-economic empowerment.

The Event on the theme “Meeting Women’s Health in Ethiopia. Challenges and Opportunities” is part of the Africa Health Week from 11 to 15 February 2019, in Addis Ababa, at the margin of the African Union Heads of State and Government Summit. The African Health Week will bring together Africa’s public health decision makers; health stakeholders; regional and global private sector, to harness the continent’s potential and opportunities to financing its health sector. Within this innovative regional framework, the Event will explore opportunities to respond fully to women’s specific health needs and constraints. It will provide a national platform for a synergic policy dialogue among CSOs, policy makers, UN, development partners, the private sector and all stakeholders, with the aim to creating a consensus on strategic interventions needed to respond to women’s health needs.


Specific objectives of the Event are to:

  • Facilitate conversations between key actors i.e. CSOs, Ministries of Health; Gender, and related structures; health professionals, private sector, the United Nations, and other development partners, on structural but also emerging health issues facing Ethiopian women and girls;
  • Provide a framework of discussion that helps to link women’s overall health priorities to the government’s growth and prosperity agenda and its prospects for achievement of SDGs and Agenda 2063;
  • Review success stories and best practices including from and outside Africa, on innovative strategies and financing models to bridge the resources gap in the health sector, in reproductive health and other related sub-sectors, in particular;
  • Agree on a CSOs-led action framework/action plan that will define measurable interventions to support Ethiopia achieve the SDG targets on women’s health

Drawing from the Ethiopia 2016 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS), data from CSOs and other sources such as United Nations, a statistical brochure is produced, on  women’s health needs and priorities i.e. reproductive health care; breast and cervical cancers; HIV; Violence against women. The brochure will provide the trends on women’s health status, bringing to bear sub-regional variations, health inequity inherent in women’s educational and economic status; among others. The brochure will therefore support an evidenced-based policy dialogue and future actions.

The main contribution of the Event is an establishment of a CSO-Government-Private Sector platform that will support harnessing additional financial resources for women’s health in Ethiopia.

For more information about the Event, please contact Ms. Ngone Diop, Chief of Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Section (diopn@un.org), copying Berhanu Tesfaye, Research Assistant (tesfayeb@un.org).


[1] S. Pasali, J. Some, M. Kabone (2018). Healthcare and Economic Growth in Africa, Background Paper in support of  ECA et al (2019) “Healthcare and Economic Growth in Africa” Report.

[2] Ethiopia Demographic and Health Survey (DHS), 2016

[3] Ethiopia DHS, 2016