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“Knowledge is Power-EngenderHealth Gave Me That Power”

One evening in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Mesfin Beyene, 36, was assisting a young woman in labor at Kirkos Health Center where he works. In the middle of the delivery, the power at the facility went out, an all-too-frequent occurrence in many parts of the country.

Just a year ago, the health staff would have had to deliver the baby by flashlight or refer the woman to another clinic for care. But today, they simply paused a moment for the facility guards to switch on the emergency generator that he helped to procure just months earlier. With the assistance of the medical staff, the woman gave birth to a healthy baby.

As Medical Director of Kirkos Health Center in Addis Ababa, Mesfin felt thrilled and, in fact, proud. It was through EngenderHealth's training of the health center staff that Mesfin learned how to mobilize his staff to identify and overcome the many challenges at the clinic. These skills have empowered him to improve the quality of health care for Ethiopian women through simple, but impactful, ways.

As part of the Access to Better Reproductive Health Initiative (ABRI), EngenderHealth works with health care providers, community partners, and Ethiopian government officials to reduce maternal injury and death by increasing the use of contraception, including long-acting and permanent methods. A key goal is to enable Ethiopian women to have the number of children they want-not the number their circumstances dictate.

Having spent years as a midwife/nurse across the Amhara Region of Ethiopia (and later as head of health centers), Mesfin is well acquainted with the many operational challenges of running a remote health center with limited resources. Although his current clinic is in the heart of Addis Ababa, Mesfin also faces obstacles in managing an urban health center, including addressing a high volume of clients with limited resources.

For example, without an ultrasound machine on site, providers had to refer women to a private facility, a costly and cumbersome step that many simply could not afford to take. Without an efficient client appointment system, dozens of women would arrive at the clinic at once, overwhelming staff and forcing clients to wait hours for their medical records.

As Medical Director, Mesfin hoped to one day address the problems he saw around him.

"I had so many ideas and the will to fix problems, but ideas and will alone are not enough unless you couple them with knowledge and skill," said Mesfin, who is further motivated to improve women's health because of his wife and 1-year-old daughter.

After being promoted to Medical Director, Mesfin received training from EngenderHealth in 2011, along with other members of Kirkos staff. Spurred by his immense energy and motivation, Mesfin applied his newly acquired skills and inspired his staff to make the changes he always dreamed to make-improving health care for women.

After Mesfin and the staff received EngenderHealth training together, Kirkos Health Center dramatically improved the quality of its services. Under Mesfin's leadership, the staff tirelessly and successfully advocated among district officials for a generator and an on-site ultrasound machine to save money for clients, as well as a shaded waiting area for clients.

The staff also set up an innovative appointment system; women now call the clinic one day before arrival to have their records ready for them. This creative solution has reduced waiting times and improved both the clients' experience and providers' working conditions.

"Knowledge is power and EngenderHealth gave me that power," Mesfin said with satisfaction.

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