New community discussion groups in Ethiopia help to challenge perceptions of HIV and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
In the Health Poverty Action project areas of Rayitu and Sawena in the Bale Lowlands, harmful traditional practices such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) affect up to 95% of women, little is known about HIV, with low levels of HIV testing and counselling and low rates in the use of contraception.
Each discussion group established by local communities with Health Poverty Action has 60 members, so a total of 2,280 people take part in these weekly meetings. Members spend two hours every two weeks discussing priority sexual and reproductive health issues including common misconceptions, FGM, family planning, HIV/AIDS and reproductive health rights. Through this positive steps have been made to lower the rates of FGM and establish HIV testing and counselling in the region.
As well as working to provide education regarding many harmful practices, Health Poverty Action has also trained a number of Traditional Birth Attendants in order to create an environment where child birth is safer and maternal mortality rates decrease.
Ethiopia is currently $7.1 billion in debt and spends just $51 per capita on health care per year, compared to $3480 in the UK. One in every 40 women who give birth in Ethiopia dies.