In the recent decade, Ethiopia has seen impressive progress in the field of health. Positive tendencies are observed in the reduction of mortality rates, both among infants and adults, longer life expectancy, and the decreased percentage of the most widespread illnesses, such as malaria, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and several tropical diseases. However, despite the steady progress, the situation is still far from satisfactory, as the mortality rates are still comparatively high, which is at least partially grounded in the cultural issues.
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Probably the biggest source of health concerns that is currently present and highly influential in Ethiopia is the trust in traditional medicine. It is commonly believed that at least some diseases are the result of the actions of supernatural beings such as gods or malevolent spirits. As a result, the sick person is more likely to seek help from a traditional healer rather than a medical professional. This leads to the maltreatment, when the patient either gets no proper treatment or gets it too late, being sure that he is getting all the required help from a healer. Additionally, healers often try to strengthen the population’s mistrust in the modern medicine to secure their clientele. As a result, malaria and tuberculosis, two diseases that can be successfully treated, remain among the highest causes of death (CDC, 2015).
Another cultural concern that destabilizes health situation is rape (Berhane, 2015). Traditionally, women in Ethiopia have much fewer rights. Men believe that consensus is not required for a sexual act. As a result, Ethiopia has one of the highest rape rates in the world and, not surprisingly, the deaths of HIV/AIDS comprise seven percent of the total number (CDC, 2015).
The same cultural inferiority of female population is the cause of the low level of education among women. This leads to poor understanding of important health topics and results in high maternal deaths from the previous inappropriate abortions and unqualified midwives, which is especially serious issue in the rural areas where the modern medical infrastructure is undeveloped, and the educated local community is the only means of assisting the laboring mother (Poverty & Healthcare, 2011).
Finally, Ethiopia is among the countries that still have female genital mutilation as a part of their spiritual and religious practices (Poverty & Healthcare, 2011). The surgical procedure is often performed with inappropriate and unsanitary equipment, in unfitting conditions, and by an untrained specialist. The operation often leads to infection, heavy bleeding, and sometimes ends in death. While the mortality resulting from this practice is relatively low compared to causes mentioned above, it still is a major concern.
There are several ways of addressing these issues. Aside from the strictly medical solutions, such as introducing the possibility of HIV testing and improved prevention strategies, several infrastructural changes are advised. Primarily, educational establishments and activities must be organized that will work in two directions. First, the population must be informed in an approachable manner about the difference between the folk and scientific medicine. Second, the proper health education should target archaic surgical practices and highlight the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases, especially HIV. Finally, the rural areas need to have well-trained extension medical staff in case the proper institutions are difficult to build and supply.
Currently, Ethiopia experiences an extensive development of the medical infrastructure. However, there is still much to be done to improve the overall health status of the country. In particular, the educational effort is required to address the current cultural issues that lead to the uneven progress and sometimes disruption of the achievements of the medical reform.
Berhane, Y. (2015). Ending domestic violence against women in Ethiopia. Ethiopian Journal of Health Development, 18(3), 131-132.
CDC. (2015). Global health – Ethiopia.
Poverty & healthcare. (2011).