Graça Machel and The Elders welcome Ethiopia's commitment to primary healthcare and digital innovation

Primary Healthcare in Ethiopia

Graça Machel is SDG Advocate and Deputy Chair of The Elders: a group of independent leaders founded by Nelson Mandela in 2007 who use their collective experience and influence for peace, justice and human rights worldwide.

The Elders met Ethiopia’s State Minister of Health, Dr. Lia Tadesse, on 20 May 2019 to learn more about the country’s efforts to achieve Universal Health Coverage. They also visited the Feres Meda health centre in Addis Ababa to meet patients and hold discussions with Health Extension Workers.

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The delegation applauded Ethiopia’s focus on primary health care as the most effective way of providing essential services to poor and vulnerable populations including women and children. They discussed with the State Minister the need for the health budget to be increased for Ethiopia to move further towards Universal Health Coverage.

“Health is a human right, and health workers are human rights champions. I applaud the Ethiopian Government’s commitment to delivering free primary care services at a community level, and urge them to commit further public funds to the health car budget to reach this goal. At the same time, I welcome Last Mile Health’s support as an inclusive model of innovation and partnership which I’m sure will yield impressive results in the future.” - Graça Machel

The Elders also welcomed the launch in Ethiopia of the Community Health Academy programme pioneered by global health NGO Last Mile Health. The new Community Health Academy programme is partnering with Ministries of Health across the world, to help frontline health workers use digital technology to improve their clinical skills and the overall capacity of health systems. The online community health leadership course of the Academy, co-created by Ethiopia and other countries, launched last week and has already enrolled over 3,700 learners in more than 150 countries.

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The Elders believe that community health workers can play a critical role in helping countries reach UHC and help all people access the healthcare they need without facing financial hardship. They recognised that Ethiopia’s Health Extension Worker programme is a positive example for other countries to follow.

Ricardo Lagos, Elder and former President of Chile, added:

“Community health workers are on the frontline of providing essential services to poor and vulnerable patients in Ethiopia. It was inspiring to see their tireless work in challenging circumstances, and to hear their hopes and plans for the future. The Community Health Academy partnership offers a great opportunity to share digital innovations for health workforce capacity building with these grassroots actors and the health systems leaders who support them.” - Ricardo Lagos

Sustainable Solutions to Forced Displacement

The Elders will host an invite-only event at the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) in Addis on the evening of 21st May. The theme of the event is Sustainable solutions to forced displacement, in line with the African Union’s theme for 2019 - Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons: Towards Durable Solutions to Forced Displacement in Africa.

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Ethiopia has made positive moves to accommodate refugees, but also faces significant challenges in dealing with substantial levels of internally displaced people (IDPs) – estimates put this as high as 3 million people.  The Elders wish to engage openly and constructively on this issue, bringing a range of perspectives regarding durable solutions to the debate.

The Elders invited Ethiopia’s Minister for Peace, who is responsible for refugees and IDPs, and the Chair of the AU as speakers and invited a young leader from Ethiopia who has experience working with refugees to partake in a moderated discussion. The event will include brief speeches from Elders and the high-profile speakers, a short moderated discussion, and then the floor will be open for questions.  The audience will consist of circa 150 invited guests from the Ethiopian Government, the diplomatic community, Addis-based UN agencies, INGOs, NGOs, young leaders, and selected media. Mrs Machel will provide closing remarks to the gathering.


The Elders are Ban Ki-moon (Deputy Chair), Lakhdar Brahimi, Gro Harlem Brundtland, Zeid Raad Al Hussein, Hina Jilani, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Ricardo Lagos, Graça Machel (Deputy Chair), Juan Manuel Santos, Mary Robinson (Chair) and Ernesto Zedillo.

Martti Ahtisaari, Ela Bhatt, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Jimmy Carter and Desmond Tutu are Elders Emeritus.

Kofi Annan (1938-2018) was a founding member of The Elders and served as Chair from 2013 to 2018.