The first mums who arrive immediately begin to carefully roll out the mats under the porch, someone lights the brazier and boils the water for coffee, someone else prepares the cups. The mums spontaneously start chatting with each other and with the community worker. This is how the “coffee ceremonies” start in the Gambella district in Ethiopia, where mothers meet after lunch to discuss small matters of maternal and child health with a community worker, as well as sharing their own personal experiences about accessing hospital care. It is through these sharing moments that it is possible to transmit awareness messages on the importance of prenatal and post-natal visits, assisted birth, vaccinations, HIV/AIDS prevention and to spread good nutritional and care practices. Even more so in this phase of the Covid-19 emergency.
«In these meetings I lecture women who are pregnant and those who are breastfeeding and each month a different topic is addressed. Coffee ceremonies are the best time to convey new notions and information to mothers about their health and that of their family. This project is helping a lot» says Ajulu Ogula, midwife with Doctors with Africa Cuamm within the framework of the project “Increased quality and equity of health services in Gambella Region – Ethiopia”, supported by the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation.
This seemingly simple ceremony is actually the culmination of intense work on the ground in the communities, which begins with visits by community health workers to the homes of mums to invite them to participate in these meetings.
«Two community health workers came by my house and invited me to the coffee ceremony, a meeting for mums who are pregnant or breastfeeding. I decided to attend and there they taught us many useful things about pregnancy, the benefits of assisted childbirth and invited us to have check-ups and vaccinations. So far I have done three check-ups at the hospital and I have to go back twice more before the birth. This is my fourth pregnancy; I also gave birth in hospital the other times. And I continue to participate in the coffee ceremonies. I am happy to give birth in hospital, it makes me feel safer and if there are any complications, there they can manage it and save my life and that of my baby» says Heruth, one of the mothers who now regularly participates in these very important sharing moments.
Even more so today, during the Covid-19 emergency, it is essential to raise awareness in communities to promote access to health services and to convey the importance of care for mothers and children.