EKHCDC Health and Nutrition Program

Brief background

The public health department of EKHCDC established 30 years ago with the purpose of preventing and controlling the spread of HIV/AIDS. The program established in nine different localities across the country to prevent and control as well as to provide care and support services to the people affected and infected by HIV/AIDS. The collective name for the program was “Medan ACTS (AIDS control and treatment services) projects” located in sites such as Addis Ababa, Shashemene, Hawassa, Dilla, Wolaita Sodo, Arbaminch, Jimma and Dessie. The program re-named several times; for example: health program, Medan ACTS, Medical department, Public Health and WASH. Currently, it is known as part of water, sanitation and health department.

EKHCDC currently deals with health and nutrition related issues through its department called “Health and HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Department”, which is currently part of Water, Sanitation and Health Department. The program deals with basic reproductive health services, community mobilization for preventing HIV/AIDS and other diseases, capacity building of various stakeholders on health related topics, reducing maternal and infant mortality, and research on basic health and nutrition issues. With regard to the control strategies, the sub strategies that can fit are care and support for people infected and affected by HIV/AIDS, networking and referral linkages for health related services, and Establishing and Strengthening Sustainability of Health Intervention (Social Accountability). 

In the past, the Health and HIV/AIDS services include constructing and furnishing health posts, clinics, and health centers. However, the program has continued in reducing child mortality through basic health approach and controlling HIV/AIDS transmission from mother –to-child, providing care and support for people living with HIV/AIDS and OVCs, running different training for the public members on awareness raising on HIV/AIDS and VCT, and providing loans for capable people being affected and infected by HIV/AIDS for IGAs.

General objective:

To improve the mental and physical wellbeing of the target communities through preventive and rehabilitative health services,

The types of projects implemented over the years include projects such as HIV/AIDS prevention and control, reproductive health, family planning, nutrition, TB prevention, hygiene and sanitation, clinical services, prevention of malaria, prevention and control of harmful traditional practices with emphasis on FGM, etc.  

The services provided include:

  • Information, Education/Behavior Change and Communication (IE/BCC) component addresses the issues related to training for peer educators, establishing youth anti-AIDS clubs, mobilizing the grass-root communities against AIDS, and producing education materials. Besides, advocacy is being carried out to fight against stigma and discrimination through high-risk group rallies, billboards and community conferences. Thus the expected benefit of such activities is to reduce the vulnerability of the infected and affected groups of people. There was a community health evangelical activity focusing on the religious communities.
  • Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT), due to exceeding demand and limited service by the public, most of the field sites of the department provide VCT services.
  • MNCCH has been implemented through mentoring mothers, strengthening referral system with health facility, providing health post/clinic services and continuum care model. With this system, the reproductive health needs of adolescent youth, women and children services were provided, in the areas of life skill education, family planning, maternal and child health care (ANC, PNC, Delivery, <5 child care service). With community and clinic service, religious leaders and stakeholder were provided capacity building training in improving MNCH.
  • In Nutrition areas, target malnourished women and children were identified and appropriate health education, food demonstration, and nutrition supports were provided in linkage with health facility services.
  •  Income-generating activities (IGA) are being practiced to help potential beneficiaries to help them help themselves. Therefore skills training and use of appropriate technologies are major areas of focus in running IGA, VSLA and SHG.
  •  Home-based care and support for people living with AIDS is yet another program component being implemented to provide physical and psychological supports through treating opportunistic diseases as well as through providing nutritional supplies and skills training for family members.
  •  Care and support for orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) provides moderate supports for their medical expenses, school supplies, and supplementary nutrition. However, the older OVCs receive skills training to help them engage in their own income-generating activities.

The EKHC public health had been well known with its innovative intervention model, with its exemplary performance, and awarded an international award with Red Ribbon at the 16th International AIDS conference in Toronto, Canada, in 2006.  During those days, EKHCDC implemented intensive community-based HIV/AIDS prevention care and support activities.  

EKHCDC have used a number of ways in mitigating public health problems. These ways include panel discussions, community conversations, peer group discussions, coffee ceremonies, facility and community capacity building activities, household economic empowerment approaches, providing care and supports for bed redden patients, etc. The community based institutions such as Idirs, Anti AIDS clubs, and Youths and Women groups have been used to prevent the spread of the HIV/AIDS into target communities and to facilitate access to the reproductive health and family planning programs. Hence, EKHCDC public health projects have been known for their strong grass root attachments and for transferring key lessons to target communities in order to prevent and control diseases, to provide care and support services, etc.

Therefore the thematic areas include:

  • Promoting Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health (MNCH) and Adolescent Health through increasing access and improving the quality of the services
  • Preventing communicable and non-communicable health problems of the susceptible community groups through care and support of the victims.
  • Reducing the incidence and mitigate the impact of malnutrition among the highly vulnerable children, pregnant and lactating mothers
  • Promoting and improving personal and environmental hygiene and sanitation (WASH)
  • Increasing awareness of the community on harmful traditional practice, women and child violence particularly on the lives of women and children, and mitigating its impact.

In general, sensitizing people in preventive health measures, carrying out TB screening and Volunteer HIV testing , providing credit and saving services for needy people, supporting vulnerable children, and training people on different training health subjects are the main activities that the program has been implementing in many parts of the country.