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Successes and challenges of the millennium development goals in Ethiopia: lessons for the sustainable development goals
  1. Yibeltal Assefa1,
  2. Wim Van Damme2,
  3. Owain D Williams1,
  4. Peter S Hill1
  1. 1School of Public Health, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia
  2. 2Department of Public Health, Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp, Belgium
  1. Correspondence to Dr Yibeltal Assefa; y.alemu{at}


We analysed the performance of Ethiopia in achieving the health-related millennium development goals (MDGs) with the aim of acquiring lessons for the sustainable development goals (SDGs). Ethiopia achieved most of the health MDGs: a 67% reduction in under-five mortality, a 71% decline in maternal mortality ratio, a 90% decline in new HIV infections, a decrease in malaria-related deaths by 73% and a more than 50% decline in mortality due to tuberculosis. We argue that these achievements are due to implementation of a mix of comprehensive strategies within the health system and across other sectors of the government. Scaling up of interventions by disease control programmes (including the health extension programme) and strengthening of the health system have played important roles towards the achievements. These health gains could not have been realised without progress in the other MDGs: poverty reduction, education, access to safe drinking-water and peace and stability of the country. However, the gains were not equitable, with differences between urban and rural areas, among regions and socioeconomic strata. Ethiopia's remarkable success in meeting most of the targets of the health-related MDGs could be explained by its comprehensive and multisectoral approach for health development. The inequity gap remains a challenge that achieving the health-related SDGs requires the country to implement strategies, which specifically target more marginal populations and geographic areas. This also needs peace and stability, without which it is almost impossible to improve health.

  • millennium development goals; sustainable development goals; child health
  • maternal health
  • tuberculosis
  • malaria; inequity;ethiopia

This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See:

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  • Contributors YA conceptualised the paper, conducted the data collection and analysis and led the manuscript writing. WVD and PSH advised on the data analysis and commented on successive drafts of the manuscript. ODW commented on successive drafts of the manuscript. All the authors critically revised the content of the paper, approved the final version and agreed to be accountable for all aspects of the work.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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