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33 Million Strong: Investing in Ethiopia’s Future

For the past nine years, as our senior expert in adolescent sexual and reproductive health in Ethiopia, Worknesh Kereta Abshiro has spearheaded a massive effort to improve the way health care is delivered to her country’s 33 million young people.

“I am proud to be a Pathfinder,” says Worknesh. “Proud of all we have accomplished together.”

To celebrate the latest results from our Integrated Family Health Program we asked Worknesh to share three reasons Pathfinder is transforming Ethiopia and saving young lives:

1. Breaking Through the Silence

Worknesh will never forget the pain she saw before the project. “There were so many deaths due to HIV and unwanted pregnancies,” she says. “Most were youth. Yet parents kept quiet, even as their children died of AIDS. Even as their pregnant daughters died from unsafe abortions. Because of taboos and stigma related to sex and reproduction, because parents themselves didn’t have accurate information, they didn’t talk to their children. That’s where we came in.”

What We’ve Accomplished

12,000 religious leaders, parents, and other stakeholders engaged to create a supportive environment.
13,000+ youth trained as peer educators, who reached 5.2 million young people with information about sexual and reproductive health.

2. Introducing Youth-Friendly Services

Eliminating social stigma is just one piece of the puzzle. “Young people were in urgent need of services, but they weren’t going to health facilities to get help? Truth is, they faced huge barriers,” says Worknesh. “No private spaces for them to confidentially access care. We saw youth turned away by judgmental providers who didn’t think they should be accessing sexual and reproductive health care in the first place. So with the Ministry of Health, we launched Ethiopia’s first public ‘youth-friendly services.’ ”

What We’ve Accomplished

1,700+ providers trained to deliver respectful, quality health care for youth.
2.3 million young people received youth-friendly services, including contraception and HIV services.

3. Building on What Already Exists

“We use existing resources,” says Worknesh. “By integrating these services into the public health system, there are no additional health care providers and no additional facilities to pay for. We have partnered with over 2,000 government officials to scale up the program—from 20 to nearly 250 facilities! What does that mean for the young people of Ethiopia? It means they can finally take charge of their health and futures.”

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