by HANNAH FORD
The road to motherhood isn’t easy, especially for women and girls from the Afar region of Ethiopia.
The Afar pastoralists who call this region home are often cut off from services many of us take for granted, as a result of their extremely remote location and nomadic way of life.
Here in Australia, we expect to have access to safe, respectful health care. In the Afar, it’s a very different story. Cost, distance and attitudes often prevent women and children from accessing formal health services and receiving the quality health care they deserve.
Few births take place in a health facility, and few women are supported through pregnancy and delivery by a skilled birth attendant. The barriers to safe motherhood are significant – and when an Afar mother dies, her baby has less chance of surviving.
Inspirational Aussie nurse, Valerie Browning, is determined to change this. She has lived among the Afar nomads for more than 20 years, and has worked tirelessly to improve their lives.
In the early ’90s, Valerie and a group of community members founded the Afar Pastoralist Development Association (APDA).
“They seemed to be living alone in a bubble, in that as pastoralists, they were outside of development entirely,” says Valerie. “No health, no education, no nothing …”