Ethiopia is a poor country but has made great strides
in the past decade delivering healthcare.


Since 2000, Ethiopia has added 38,000 health extension workers to reduce child mortality by bringing health care to remote rural areas. Friends of CHFE supports healthcare providers to improve prevention and treatment of heart disease in children and young adults.

Ethiopian Child Walking with Cow

By the Numbers

Population: 101 million
Children born per year: 3 million
Child mortality (under 5 yrs): 59 per 1,000
Population living on less than $1.90 per day: 34%
Estimated # born each year with congenital heart defects: 30,000
Estimated school aged children affected by rheumatic heart disease: up to 3%

Heart Disease

In Ethiopia, an estimated 30,000 children are born each year with heart defects. Many will need surgery.  

Another 1-3% of school age children have heart damage from rheumatic heart disease (RHD), caused by untreated “strep throat”, which can be prevented with low-cost antibiotics and trained health workers.  

Thousands of these children die each year because Ethiopia lacks health professionals who are trained to prevent, diagnose and treat heart disease.  

We want to change that. We hope you’ll join us.

Rheumatic heart disease is a neglected disease, caused by untreated “strep” throat infections that progress into acute rheumatic fever and RHD. If left untreated, RHD can lead to heart valve damage, stroke, arrhythmias, heart failure, and death. It is the most common cardiovascular disease in children and young adults globally, affecting nearly 33 million people and causing 345,000 deaths annually.

Image of three young boys in Ethiopia

Yet RHD is preventable with early detection and access to inexpensive penicillin.  The drugs and technology needed for successful control programs have been used in developed countries for over 50 years, yet they remain inaccessible to many of the poorest in developing countries.  

Although anyone can get rheumatic fever, it usually affects children aged 5 -12 years. Up to two-thirds of children with RHD usually are too weak to attend school, because the disease progresses and causes chronic disability.  If we can prevent RHD, we can help children avoid disability and suffering, and the costly and difficult treatment of open-heart surgery for heart valve damage. 

We are working with Ethiopian doctors, researchers and the government to understand the burden of disease of RHD in Ethiopia, and we are supporting a pilot program to prevent RHD in children. 

Photo of Child in Ethiopia in Red Top & Long Green Floral SkirtOf all the birth defects worldwide, the most common are heart defects. 

Severe congenital heart disease generally becomes evident during the first few months after birth. Babies might have very low blood pressure, breathing difficulties, feeding problems, or poor weight gain.  Many need surgery.  At a certain point, as the disease progresses over months or years, children become inoperable.  Their quality of life deteriorates, and premature death occurs.

One in every 120 children born worldwide has a heart condition.  In the U.S. and the developed world, most of these children receive early diagnosis and timely treatment including heart surgery, and they can live normal, healthy lives.

In most of the developing world including Ethiopia, children don’t have access to heart care that could save their lives.    

Currently, there are only a handful of cardiologists and pediatric cardiologists in Ethiopia, a country of 100 million people. Primary care health workers don’t know how to diagnose or prevent heart disease.  

And until 2017, Ethiopia had no surgery team that could repair children’s heart valves. With our support, Ethiopia’s first pediatric cardiac surgery team has been trained, and it began performing surgeries in June 2017 at CHFE’s nonprofit cardiac center in Addis Ababa.  This is a great accomplishment, and we are proud to celebrate this milestone with the extraordinary and dedicated Ethiopian team. The team will need additional training and support for some time as they develop their country’s first pediatric cardiac surgery program.

Image of young girl from Ethiopia

It’s estimated that up to 3% of school aged children in Ethiopia are affected by rheumatic heart disease.