Traditional burial societies to help people living with HIV/AIDS
Tuesday 1 June 2004
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ETHIOPIA: Traditional burial societies to help people living with HIV/AIDS

©  IRIN/Anthony Mitchell

AIDS-awareness poster in Ethiopia

ADDIS ABABA, 13 January (PLUSNEWS) - Ethiopia’s traditional community-based burial societies - idirs - are now turning their attention to helping people living with HIV, officials said on Tuesday.

"This change of mandate is very fundamental," Dr Eyob Kamil, head of Addis Ababa’s Health Bureau, told PlusNews at the launch of a training programme for idirs. "It’s mobilising community support and giving skills to provide care to everyone. This is community empowerment."

Idirs are community groups to which people pay subscriptions towards meeting funeral and mourning costs. They have a very long reach among communities and are found in almost all parts of the country. Members of these burial societies are currently being trained for HIV/AIDS-related work in Addis Ababa.

People active in the field of HIV/AIDS believe the involvement of the idirs will result in the establishment of the country’s largest home-based care programme in the Ethiopian capital.

So far, some 250 volunteers from 20 idirs in Addis Ababa have received training under the scheme. "What is fantastic about this project is the engagement of the idirs, whose primary mandate is to take responsibility for the funeral, mourning and costs," Eyob said. "Now, with the increasing number of people living with HIV/AIDS, the idirs are changing their mandate and will focus on providing care for their members still alive, as well as caring for all the people in their
geographic area."

More than 2 million people - 200,000 of them children - are living with HIV in Ethiopia, according to the government. Some campaigners say the true figure is far higher.

"This whole programme is based on the idir mobilisation," Dr Ashenafi Haile, the head of the government’s HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Office (HAPCO) in Addis Ababa, said. "There is no other way you could reach so many people."

Family Health International (FHI) is also looking at ways of helping families hit by the virus to generate income and uplift their standard of living. "These people are incredibly poor, and in many cases the primary provider is chronically ill," Francesca Stuer, the head of FHI in Ethiopia, told PlusNews. "We are looking into the feasibility of a home gardening project to generate income in these circumstances," added Stuer, whose organisation is implementing the project.

Meanwhile, a home-based care centre is being set up in the grounds of Ras Desta Hospital in the capital to provide training. The centre will also act as a distribution point for home-based care kits, which consist of nursing supplies, oral rehydration salts and basic drugs. The home-based care programme is being run by the Addis Ababa Health Bureau in conjunction with HAPCO, with support from the US Agency for International Development.



Recent ETHIOPIA Reports

US grants $18 million for HIV/AIDS,  27/Apr/04
New project launched to help HIV/AIDS-affected families,  23/Apr/04
National HIV/AIDS forum launched,  1/Apr/04
Focus on local manufacture of anti-retroviral drugs,  10/Mar/04
Calls for greater youth involvement in anti-AIDS fight,  4/Mar/04


The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria
International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS
The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria
International HIV/AIDS Alliance

PlusNews does not take responsibility for info in links supplied.


PlusNews is produced under the banner of RHAIN, the Southern African Regional HIV/AIDS Information Network. RHAIN's members currently include:


  • IRIN

  • Inter Press Service (IPS)



  • Health Systems Trust

  • Health & Development

  • GTZ/Afronets

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