2011 Global Field Experience

Singing Your Way To Safe Delivery in Oromia, Ethiopia

Oromia, Ethiopia

Gifti Paulos

I'm participating in the dancing and singing of an Oromo traditional birth song.


According to the 2011 DHS Survey, 40.4 % of women have received prenatal care from a skilled provider in Oromia, but only 9 % of women actually had a skilled provider including health extension workers help them deliver their child. Recognizing this problem and Ethiopia's high maternal mortality ratio ( 673 per 100,000 live births), the organization MANHEP (Maternal and Newborn Health in Ethiopia Partnership) wanted to demonstrate a community oriented model to improve maternal and newborn health care in Ethiopia. One of the ways they wanted to improve maternal and newborn health care was to increase demand for maternal and newborn health services and promote behaviors in pregnant mothers that increase newborn survival rates through music. Therefore, I decided to look at traditional Oromo birth songs to see what kind of messages were within them. First, I videotaped Oromo women singing traditional birth songs in 3 districts where MANHEP was already stationed in and conducted focus group discussions with the women there. Specifically, I conducted focus group discussions with the mothers who usually sang the birth songs and the front line workers separately about the meaning of the songs and the role the songs play in the community. Too often, the participants in the discussions would say the birth songs were a way to celebrate the woman for surviving birth and delivering a healthy child, which meant that this was a rare occurrence. But with the work that MANHEP is doing along with my research, my hope is that we can change the stories of many women to come where a woman surviving childbirth will no longer be a rare occurrence.