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Analytical summary - General country health policies

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Historically, the health system in Ethiopia was centralized and services were delivered in a fragmented manner with a reliance on vertical programmes. There was little collaboration between the public and private sectors. Administrative arrangements were also centralized until 1991. In 1992, a new health policy was developed following a critical examination of the nature, magnitude and root causes of the prevailing health problems of the country and awareness of newly emerging health problems.

The new policy was founded on commitment to democracy, the rights of the people, and decentralization as the most appropriate system of government for the full exercise of these rights and powers in a pluralistic society. At the core of the health policy is:

  • democratization and decentralization of the health care system
  • developing preventive, promotive and curative components of health care
  • accessibility of health care for all parts of the population
  • encouraging private and nongovernmental organization participation in the health sector.[1]

The policy emphasizes the needs of the less-privileged rural population, which constitutes 85% of the total population and is the major productive workforce in the country. It proposes realistic goals and the means for attaining them, based on the fundamental principle that health, constituting physical, mental and social well-being, is a prerequisite for the enjoyment of life and for optimal productivity.

The Government of Ethiopia therefore accords health a prominent place in its priorities and is committed to the attainment of these goals, utilizing all accessible internal and external resources.[2] To implement the national policy, a 20-year Health Sector Development Programme consisting of a series of 5-year rolling programmes was established in 1997–1998.[2]

Priorities of the health policy are:

  • health information, education and communication;
  • an emphasis on control of communicable diseases, epidemics and diseases related to malnutrition and poor living conditions;
  • promotion of occupational health and safety;
  • development of environmental health;
  • rehabilitation of the health infrastructure;
  • development of health service management systems;
  • development of curative and rehabilitative components of health, including mental health;
  • development of traditional medicines, together with related research;
  • health research addressing the major health problems;
  • provision of essential medicines, medical supplies and equipment;
  • development of human resources;
  • responding to health needs of women and children and neglected regions and segments of the population, including the majority of the rural population, pastoralists, the urban poor and national minorities, and victims of man-made and natural disasters.

Based on the national health policy, the following health-related policies are being developed:


  1. Health Sector Development Programme IV. Annual performance report. Addis Ababa, Government of Ethiopia, Ministry of Health, 2010
  2. 2.0 2.1 Government of Ethiopia, Ministry of Health