This week marks the 33rd Annual Ethiopian Public Health Association (EPHA) Conference, which took place March 13–15. This year’s conference theme was Conflict, Public Health, and Health Systems Resilience. The conference examined the public health consequences of conflict, the impact of conflict on reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health (RMNCH), and recovery efforts that contribute to rebuilding a resilient health system. Heran Abebe Tadesse, EnCompass’ Senior Gender Advisor in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, serves on EPHA’s scientific committee and as the RMNCH and gender-based violence (GBV) track director. Ahead of the conference, Lanice Williams, Gender Integration Specialist II with the USAID Transform: Primary Health Care Activity, sat down with Heran to get some more information about EPHA and her role in this year’s conference.
Lanice Williams: What is the Ethiopian Public Health Association, and what is your role in its 33rd Annual Conference?
Heran Tadesse: EPHA is an association of health professionals that envisions the attainment of an optimal standard of health for the people of Ethiopia. Established in 1991, the association promotes better health services and high professional standards through advocacy, professional competence, relevant policies, and effective networking. Starting on March 13, EPHA is holding its 33rd Annual Conference over three days. I am one of seven members serving on the conference’s scientific committee. My role for this year’s conference is serving on the scientific committee and as the RMNCH and GBV track director. I am responsible for coordinating abstract peer reviews, co-developing the content for the call to action for the RMNCH and GBV track from the plenary and concurrent sessions, and overseeing the recruitment of plenary speakers for the track.
Lanice Williams: Currently, you serve as the track director for the conference theme around the impact of conflict on RMNCH. Can you give us a hint about what attendees can expect from the EPHA Annual conference related to this theme?
Heran Tadesse: Some of the things that attendees can expect from the EPHA conference theme around the impact of conflict on RMNCH are: 1) a better understanding of the effects of RMNCH service disruptions for vulnerable groups such as pregnant women, adolescent girls, and infants; 2) increased awareness of the heightened risk of GBV and sexual violence among women and girls during conflict and the health needs of GBV survivors; and 3) increased awareness of the minimum initial sexual and reproductive health service package during crisis conditions.
Lanice Williams: You also serve as the Senior Gender Advisor for the USAID Transform: Primary Health Care Activity in Ethiopia. How will the Transform: Primary Health Care Activity present its experience and lessons learned around RMNCH and GBV?
Heran Tadesse: As part of the plenary session, “The Impact of Conflict on RMNCH,” Dr. Mengistu Asnake, Chief of Party of Transform: Primary Health Care, will share reflections on components of the minimum initial sexual and reproductive health services during a crisis and how to continue these services in the absence of basic infrastructure. Dr. Asnake will also share the Activity’s integrated emergency response experience to reinstate RMNCH services in conflict-affected areas.
Lanice Williams: What do you hope people will take away from the session on RMNCH at the EPHA conference?
Heran Tadesse: I hope people will take away a better understanding of how the impact of conflict on RMNCH is immense, especially on life-saving RMNCH services.
Portions of this interview have been edited for length and clarity.