On the road to “health for all” policy, the government of Eritrea in the past independence years has registered a remarkable success in the improvement of the people’s health status. Throughout the country the government has made an intensive effort in providing quality, and accessible health care system and made a commendable achievement on the prevention of communicable diseases including malaria, HIV/ AIDS and on the immunization of children against the most deadly childhood diseases.
The overall reduction in malaria, and HIV/AIDS cases, for instance, could be attributed to the commitment of the Eritrean government to the well being of its people. Moreover the Ministry of Health has been making relentless effort to increase public awareness and created high levels of community awareness and participation all over the country.
As a result, annual trend of malaria and HIV/AIDS cases has shown a very significant reduction. According to reports of the Ministry of Health, in the year 1998 the number of malaria cases was more than 250,000, and it dropped to 100,000 in 2001. While, in 2009 the number descended to less than 20, 000. As a result in 2008 the malaria accounted for just one percent of death of children under the age of five in Eritrea, and this is attributed as a major success story as compared with countries of sub- Sahara Africa.
Again, the success was possible because the Eritrean National Malaria Control Program did its best on the prevention and on early diagnosis and prompt treatment of the disease. The program included targeted distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets, which was provided for free to pregnant women, and regions that are believed to be highly vulnerable to the disease, which in turn encouraged users. According to studies by the Ministry of Health, in 2007, some 78 percent of families living in malaria endemic regions used insecticide treated bed nets. However, it is also said that community agents treat about 80 percent of malaria cases in Eritrea. Accordingly, ever since1999 malaria morbidity and mortality has dropped by more than 80 percent.
Similarly, HIV/AIDS has been one of the dangers, threatening nations by killing the youths, the main assets for the progress and development of a country. In this case, according to studies, globally, the infection has been serious that it has stretched tens of folds from the record of 1990s, compared with that of 2008s. In the past five years some 33.4 million people have been reported HIV positive, out of which, 22.3% are said to have been from below the Sub-Saharan region. Not withstand with the aforementioned facts, 2.7 Million newly affected people were reported in 2008, and around 2 million died in the same year.
Again, in the case of Eritrea, the disease is one of the epidemic ones the government is struggling to halt its spread. The disease showed a steady progress since it was identified for the first time in the country in Asab, 1988. The government of Eritrea, understanding this disease may pose a heavy problem in the development of the young nation, responded hurriedly. Based on four sentinel surveys; the Eritrean national AIDS and TB Control Division has found out that the HIV/AIDS prevalence in the country is low. According to the year 2010 estimates of the Ministry of Health, trends in HIV/AIDS cases in the country have stepped down to less than one percent, which is a good signal of the government’s dedication in safeguarding the people’s health status.
Another key success of the Ministry of Health is the reduction of maternal and prenatal deaths which includes the provision of quality antenatal care and skilled assistance during delivery; post partum home visits; care of the new born; expansion and equitable distribution and emergency neonatal and obstetric care services; provision of post abortion care; and so on and so forth. In this case the study on the maternal mortality ratio of the years 1990—2010 reveals that the ratio has declined from 998 per 100,000 live births in 1995 to almost 486 at the present.
For that reason taking into account of the estimates Eritrea’s maternal mortality from 1990—2008, the World Health Organization (WHO) has listed the country as one of the few countries in the continent of Africa that are on their way registering the success needed by Millennium Development Goal because with an annual average reduction rate of 6.6 percent, the country is recorded seventh with 69 percent reduction in maternal mortality ratio, next Estonia (76%) and Equatorial Guinea (73). However, the UN estimates of Eritrea’s maternal mortality ratio is even far less than what has been reported by the national data, 246 per 100,000 live births (UN), and that is why the UN regarded Eritrea as one of the three African countries that are on the path to reach the Millennium Development Goal by the year 2015.
Moreover, as presented by the Ministry of Health, Eritrea has also reduced child mortality from 81per 1,000 in 1991 to 42 per 1,000 live births in 2010. Again under the age of five, mortality has reduced from 148 per 1,000 live births in time of the country’s independence to 63 per 1,000 live births this year. This is quite surprising to hear such a success from a young nation, struggling hard on the road to development and progress without any external assistance.
Additionally, the United Nations in 2008 identified some 69 countries which should have dealt with the reduction of maternal mortality, child mortality, and neonatal, out of which 16 countries including Eritrea registered the track to success. The success for the young nation of Eritrea happened as the government, since independence, made ready quality health care that includes health facilities, schools, and a comprehensive package of low-cost, high—impact intervention to improve child health and quality survival.
The breakthrough of the country’s great progress on the child mortality, therefore, happened as a result of a combination of methods. Normally, it was the responsibility of the Ministry of Health to immunize and care of children. Studies have revealed that the Ministry of Health immunized and reached 99 percent of children all across the country. And the other successful intervention is the introduction of large scale immunization, and the integrated management of childhood illness, both of which added protect children through vaccination. According to reports of the Ministry of Health, immunization of children all over the country showed an increase from 10% during the day of liberation to 100 percent at present. So far Eritrea has used expanded program on immunization as the most cost-effective intervention against measles, poliomyelitis, diphtheria, neonatal tetanus, whooping cough, tuberculosis, and since 2002, hepatitis against hepatitis B, and a vaccine against hemophilus influenza type b, (Hib) was introduced in 2008. Moreover, the ministry is on the way to introduce pneumococcus, and rota virus vaccinations.
Based on studies by the Ministry of Health, without immunization, two percent of children would have died from whooping cough, three percent from measles; one percent from tetanus and point five percent would have been crippled from polio; and 20 percent of children would have missed their lives from neonatal tetanus. However, with an intensive effort made by the government, Eritrea is now Polio free country. Measles has been the major cause of children’s mortality in the world making the death of millions of children between the ages of five and 14. As to the case of Eritrea, there used to be high death rate of measles before independence, took the lives of thousands of children. Whereas, after independence, the number of immunized children steadily increased, bringing down the presence of the disease to almost zero at the moment, to the level where Eritrea received an award, in Hanoi, Vietnam in 2008. Measles, therefore, has been effectively controlled. It poses no more threat. Thanks to the Ministry of Health of Eritrea and its counterparts. To date deaths from many communicable diseases has become history.